Image of a man using a wearable headset with a tablet

Apple Acquires German Company Specializing In Eye Tracking, Hinting At AR Future

Apple has acquired a German IT company that specializes in the development of eye-tracking glasses. The company’s technology is designed for use in several different fields, including neuroscience, psychology, and augmented reality.

The deal was reported by MacRumours, which claims Apple has “almost certainly” purchased SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) for an unknown sum. The transaction has been made by a shell company called Vineyard Capital Corporation, which is used by Apple to disguise its involvement in an attempt to keep its acquisitions secret.

Most of the content has been removed from SMI’s website during the past week. There remain only a few basic details of the company’s history and its product range. Archived versions of the domain reveal there used to be a news section, contact page, and links to distributors of SMI’s products. The company’s jobs page has also been taken down, including the open positions that were previously listed on it.

Conceptual image of a woman using augmented reality
[Image by vectorfusionart/Shutterstock]

SMI was founded in 1991 and is based near Berlin. The company’s innovative technology is meant to aid the development of futuristic input methods controlled by moving your eyes. In one of the remaining pages on its website, SMI showcases several applications of the tech. It has been used in autism and child research, cognitive training and learning, linguistics, and market research, among many other scenarios.

The company has also engineered its eye-tracking systems for use with augmented and virtual reality systems. This is probably where Apple’s interest lies as the company has just stepped up its commitment to these new technologies. It is preparing to launch its own augmented reality platform with its upcoming iOS 11 software update, a launch that will turn all modern iPhones into AR-ready devices.

Conceptual close-up image of a wearable computer being worn over an eye
[Image by Ahmet Misirligul/Shutterstock]

While Apple’s intentions for SMI’s future aren’t known, it seems likely the company’s eye-tracking systems will end up being integrated into ARKit. Apple may be planning an augmented reality ecosystem that’s controlled by your vision, letting you look at things to interact with them. Since no other company is currently known to be working in this area, Apple has a chance to pioneer the concept.

The other applications of SMI’s technology may also appeal to Apple. With a strong existing record of use in the medical profession, the eye-trackers could be integrated into Apple services like HealthKit. The company is becoming increasingly serious about building a health platform capable of offering diagnosis and treatment capabilities, a field SMI’s experience and tech could aid in.

[Featured Image by Mediaphotos/Shutterstock]

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