Apple just bought a company that made eye-tracking 'smart' glasses

SensoMotoric InstrumentsSensoMotoric InstrumentsA screenshot of SensoMotoric’s eye-tracking glasses from a YouTube video.

Apple has purchased a small German company that specialises in eye-tracking, MacRumors reported on Monday.

The company, SensoMotoric Instruments, previously made a specialised pair of glasses that used eye tracking for a variety of applications, including athletics.

The company used the domain name eyetracking-glasses.com. They claimed their eye-tracking technology had over 100,000 users. 

Eye tracking is a core technology that many working on virtual and augmented reality believe will be essential to truly immersive eyewear.

Headsets with eye-tracking can use the technology as a component in a user interface, so that where you’re clicking in a virtual world lines up with where you’re actually looking in the real world. Eye-tracking can also be used to reduce the amount of processing power needed to render a virtual world, or make virtual characters seem more real. 

Last year, Google bought Eyefluence, another company specializing in eye-tracking. AR startup Magic Leap, which has raised $US1.39 billion, uses eye tracking in its prototype headset. 

Apple has never confirmed that it is working on a headset, but it released a set of augmented-reality software tools for the iPhone, ARKit, last month. Apple CEO Tim Cook has also been effusive in his praise for the technology in public speeches. 

“I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day,” Cook said last year

Apple has bought a ton of companies with applications in AR or VR, including: 

  • Metaio, which made AR software
  • Primesense, which made a 3D sensor which could be great for AR
  • Faceshift, a facial mapping company
  • FlyBy Media, which made tech that can track the 3D motion of an object. 

Apple confirmed the purchase to Axios. The price Apple paid for the reportedly 60-person company is unknown.

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