Apple just got deeper into AR with purchase of eye-tracking tech firm

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple wants to make AR a reality.

Three weeks after it unveiled ARKit, a new augmented reality developer kit that would help Apple app developers integrate this technology that overlays digital images on the physical world, and Apple CEO Tim Cook singed its praises, the company has acquired SensoMotoric Instruments, a German developer of eye-tracking movement technology. News site MacRumors first reported the deal on Monday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," the company said in an email statement.

The availability of AR technology on hundreds of millions of Apple's mobile devices has the potential to help make iOS  "the largest AR platform in the world overnight," Cook said at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., this month.

Apple, which is sitting on more than $250 billion in cash, is in the advantageous position of snapping up start-ups in AR, virtual reality and artificial intelligence to make inroads in those fields, says Angelo Zino, a senior equity analyst at CFRA.

Longtime Apple analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, believes the company could leverage AR for use in the home improvement and real estate industries.

Apple's foray into AR holds promise but faces obstacles. Despite the best efforts of major tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Samsung in recent years, the technology has not caught on beyond gamers and reached a mainstream audience.

Still, the acquisition is the latest signal that "companies with plans to build head-mounted AR systems would consider eye sight as the universal interface," says David Goldman, vice president of marketing at Lumus, a developer of see-through wearable displays.

© 2017 USA TODAY


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