An intriguing new report from MacRumors relays that Apple recently acquired SensoMotoric Instruments, a German-based company with expertise across varying types of eye-tracking technologies.
According to the company’s website, its technology (both hardware and software) can not only be used for mobile eye tracking on glasses, but for VR and AR purposes as well. Word of the acquisition is particularly notable given recent rumors pointing towards Apple’s interest in developing a pair of augmented reality-based smart glasses.
Just a few weeks ago, an anonymous leaker with ties to Foxconn revealed that Apple is actively working on developing a pair of smart glasses and that the company is hoping to transition the initiative “from a science project towards a consumer product.” Additionally, the leaker revealed that Apple’s current smart glasses prototype employs a prism to project an image onto a lens with a resolution of 428×240.
A few months previous, Bloomberg issued a report indicating that Apple’s rumored smart glasses might serve as a handy accessory used alongside an iPhone.
“While still in an exploration phase,” the report said at the time, “the device would connect wirelessly to iPhones, show images and other information in the wearer’s field of vision, and may use augmented reality, the people said.”
Now to be clear, Apple hasn’t confirmed the acquisition — as it sometimes does when evidence like this emerges — but MacRumors did a good amount of digging to show that the acquisition likely went through via an Apple shell company. Recall, Apple will often acquire companies via nondescript shell companies as to shroud its future product plans in secrecy. What’s more, MacRumors claims to have received an insider tip confirming the acquisition. And lastly, various portions of SensoMotoric Instruments’ website have been taken down, a common occurrence when a company gets bought out by Apple.
SensoMotoric Instruments recently updated its website, removing over a dozen pages with detailed information about its products. The website also no longer has a jobs portal, news blog, schedule of events and workshops, contact information, list of distributors and resellers, or mailing list signup form.
The acquisition is backed up by an anonymous tipster, who told us that he allegedly spoke to an Apple employee today who said the deal has been completed. Additionally, one of SensoMotoric’s clients informed us that they have been attempting to contact the company for several weeks without hearing back.
Incidentally, some of the company’s existing technology can already be found in VR headsets like the Oculus Rift. These are the kinds of moves we will continue to see in the months and years to come as Apple begins to phase out the iPhone, which we saw the first hints of at WWDC 2017 this year.