Apple Inc has agreed to acquire PrimeSense Ltd, the maker of motion-tracking chip technology that was used in Microsoft Corp’s Kinect game console.
Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed the purchase on Monday in a telephone interview.
Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad, and Tel Aviv-based PrimeSense were negotiating a deal for about US$350 million, one person familiar with the deal said last week.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Huguet said.
The deal fits Cupertino, California-based Apple’s pattern of buying less well-known firms whose capabilities are folded into future products. PrimeSense’s technology gives digital devices the ability to detect movements and objects, and then translates that into depth and color.
Apple, the world’s largest tech company, has not used much of its US$146.8 billion in cash and investments for big acquisitions.
PrimeSense investors include Canaan Partners, Silver Lake, Gemini Israel Funds and Genesis Partners. In addition to its use in gaming, PrimeSense has been developing new depth-sensing technology that allows for a 3D camera in a mobile phone to enable apps like indoor navigation tools or 3D shopping catalogs.
PrimeSense has also said its technology can be used for measuring depth, allowing a person to take a photograph of their living room into a furniture store to determine if a sofa would fit in the space.
Apple has bought several chip companies, including Passif Semiconductor this year, Intrinsity in 2010 and P.A. Semi in 2008. The company also purchased the Israeli company Anobit last year to acquire flash-memory technology.
In other news, Apple was found by a US federal jury not to infringe the patent of a 70-year-old electrical engineer who claims he came up with the idea for the smartphone.
The jury in Los Angeles on Monday rejected the claim by NetAirus Technologies LLC, the company owned by inventor Richard Ditzik, that Apple’s iPhone infringes its patent for a handheld device that combines computer and wireless-communication functions over both a Wi-Fi and cellular telephone network.
The trial was limited to damages NetAirus could seek for infringement by Apple’s iPhone 4 since October last year, when the patent was recertified with changes in the language of the claims.
NetAirus has filed a separate lawsuit for alleged patent infringement by the iPad and iPhone models that Apple started selling since the suit was filed in 2010.
Ditzik and his lawyer said they were disappointed with the verdict and considering whether to appeal