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Apple's big gesture - Apple buys PrimeSense

After a long time of rumors and leaks, it's confirmed that Apple is acquiring gesture recognition company PrimeSense.

For those who don't know, it was PrimeSense's technology that powered Microsoft's original XBox (then Kinect) gesture-based gaming console. We predicted Apple's acquiring a gesture recognition company months ago, but expected that it would be one of the smaller companies.

This acquisition is the latest is a series of acquisitions in the gesture recognition area.  Google acquired FlutterIntel acquired Omek Interactive and Qualcomm acquired GestureTek.  In addition, Samsung has released gesture recognition of some of their latest phones and TVs, and many other companies are researching the area.

We're most excited by software approaches to gesture recognition, especially micro-gestures. But Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense shows their choice of a hardware solution.

The $256,000 question, of course, is what Apple is planning to do with PrimeSense's technology. Many are speculating that they'll incorporate it into a new Apple TV product, noting that an iOS-based TV would essentially enter the gaming market at the same time. Others are speculating that it will be incorporated into Apple's laptop computer line, a similar direction as the technology by Leap Motion that is incorporated into laptops by HP.

We believe, however, that it's more likely that Apple will try to use the PrimeSense sensor to further differentiate its iOS devices. For example, Apple recently introduced its famous fingerprint sensor in iPhones.  These sensors can be used for device security and for transaction security, but more importantly they can be used by 3rd-party applications for any authentication or security purpose. Motion sensors in iDevices could serve to control the device's scrolling and selection, but more importantly, could open up a wide variety of innovative applications. Innovative apps are, as we all know, the differentiation that Apple craves for iDevices.

Could a PrimeSense sensor in an iDevice detect when a car got too close to another car? Detect the height and gender of someone approaching a wall-mounted iPad? Detect facial contours well enough to recognize faces? Perform therapeutic gait analysis by sensing leg and body motion? Detect when people are drunk?

The possibilities appear endless for applications of PrimeSense sensors in iDevices.

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