Apple Confirms Acquisition of Israeli 3D Sensing Company PrimeSense

PrimeSense is best known for its advanced body-movement tracking technology originally used for the Xbox 360, a popular gaming device.

Apple has signed a $350 million acquisition deal with the Israeli company PrimeSense, the maker of a motion-tracking chip technology.

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed the deal late Sunday, but would not elaborate on the details. Rumors of the acquisition, apparently signed over the weekend, have been circulating in the media for months.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Huguet told Reuters via email.

The Israeli maker of motion-tracking chip technology is best known for licensing the hardware design and chip used in Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system for the Xbox 360, which came out in 2010. More recently, the startup has been developing depth-sensing technology that would enable a three-dimensional camera inside a mobile phone to operate applications like indoor navigation tools or 3D shopping catalogs.

Apple bought another Israeli company, flash storage chip maker Anobit, in January 2012.

The PrimeSense acquisition contributes to what is shaping up to be a banner year for merger-and-acquisition deals for Israeli startups. Google's $1 billion purchase of navigational application Waze has received the most media attention, but other big acquisitions include IBM’s $650 million purchase of cybercrime prevention company Trusteer and Facebook’s $120 million purchase of mobile utility app maker Onavo. Mobile protection company Asurion has also agreed to purchase Soluto, a cloud-based PC management service, for $130 million.

PrimeSense investors include Canaan Partners, Silver Lake, Gemini Israel Funds and Genesis Partners.

The PrimeSense deal fits Apple’s pattern of buying relatively unknown companies whose technology is later integrated into Apple products. Apple has bought several other chip companies since 2008. Earlier this year, it acquired navigation-software maker Embark, online transit navigation service HopStop, business-locations maps company Locationary, and WifiSLAM, a location-identifying technology allowing smartphones to detect a person’s coordinates inside a building.

Daniel Tchetchik