Rumor mill: Apple paying $345M for 3D firm PrimeSense

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may be preparing to add 3D and gesture-recognition capabilities to its devices if the rumor is true that it is negotiating a deal to pay $345 million for Tel Aviv-based PrimeSense.

The rumored deal was reported by Calcalist, an Israeli financial news site, which also said a public announcement of the deal will be made in about two weeks. However, late Sunday night AllThingsD wrote that the deal is still being negotiated with final terms regarding issues such as liquidity preferences, meaning who gets paid first, still being sorted out. AllthingsD said one source predicted the sales price could exceed the reported $345 million price tag by $20 million.

PrimeSense's 3D sensing technology. (Source: PrimeSense / YouTube)

Speculation regarding a potential deal between Apple and PrimeSense began back in July, at which time a $280 million to $300 million price tag was bounced around.

Apple did not immediately reply FierceWirelessTech's request for comment on this latest report.

Over the weekend, PrimeSense responded to inquiries from Reuters and other media with the following statement: "We are focused on building a prosperous company while bringing 3D sensing and natural interaction to the mass market in a variety of markets such as interactive living room and mobile devices. We do not comment on what any of our partners, customers or potential customers are doing and we do not relate to rumors or recycled rumors."

PrimeSense's body-movement tracking technology was used in the original Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360, though Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) later opted to use different technology in the newest version of the videogame system.

PrimeSense's Light Coding technology enables depth acquisition by coding a scene with near-infrared light and then using an off-the-shelf CMOS image sensor to read the coded light back from the scene. The company has two systems-on-chips (SoCs), the Carmine and the newer Capri (the latter designed for use in smartphones and tablets), which execute parallel computational algorithms to decipher the received light coding infrared patterns, in order to produce a VGA size depth image of a scene.

Calcalist reported that Apple intends to use PrimeSense's technology for gesture-based controls in its long-rumored Apple TV project. However, some speculate that PrimeSense's technology could also find a home in future versions of the iPhone and iPad or even in an Apple smartwatch, which has the unofficial moniker of the iWatch and could be released in 2014, according to Slashgear.

In fact, PrimeSense's technology could enable 3D cameras in mobile devices as early as next year. In a recent interview with Forbes, Tal Dagan, PrimeSense's vice president of marketing, said, "We are deeply involved with a couple of projects, and, yes, I think you will see 3D capabilities in a phone or tablet in 2014."

3D sensor data has potential uses in mobile games, crime scene scanning, self-navigating robots and location-based applications, including outdoor mapping of urban environments and indoor navigation. Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) has been working with PrimeSense to add 3D sensing to its Vuforia augmented reality platform. While early attempts to enable 3D in smartphones largely dissipated, the general consensus is the technology could still be quite useful provided a full-fledged 3D ecosystem emerges.

"Once this technology shows up in a tablet or a phone, people will be able to make these models with the hardware they have in their pocket all the time. At that point, the possibilities for this just really explode," Matt Bell, chief strategy officer of 3D camera company Matterport, told Forbes.

AllThingsD said Silver Lake invested an undisclosed amount--one source pegged the amount at $50 million--in PrimeSense during 2011. Investors reportedly recently valued PrimeSense at $250 million, at which point a large secondary sale of shares is said to have been made. Prior to that, the company had raised some $30 million from venture capitalists including Canaan Partners, Gemini Israel and Genesis Partners.

For more:
- see this Calcalist article  (Hebrew)
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this Forbes article
- see this Reuters article
- see this PCmag article
- see this Slashgear article

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