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Apple reportedly buys eye tracking-specialized company to help with AR development

By Adrian Diaconescu June 28, 2017, 9:30 am

Whether it’s coming in September or later, limited or “regular” numbers at launch, with or without Touch ID fingerprint recognition and priced at around $1,000 or slightly less, the majorly redesigned iPhone 8 is pretty much guaranteed to include some sort of augmented reality technology.

Further down the line, Apple should also try its hand at something Google couldn’t get off the ground in the past. Perhaps inspired by the unexpected Snapchat Spectacles hit, the Carl Zeiss-co-developed Cupertino smart glasses are likely to take AR to the next level, with the suspected help of a little company called SensoMotoric Instruments.


SMI is a German provider of dedicated computer vision applications founded in 1991, and largely focused of late on playing a “pioneering role in the development of eye tracking.” Strong evidence points to the OEM and eye tracking solutions supplier for “researchers and professionals” having been recently acquired by Apple to contribute to top secret internal projects.

For its part, the world’s most profitable smartphone vendor refused to publicly discuss its “purpose or plans”, admitting however that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time” with minimal fanfare.

Sounds like confirmation to us, and now we’re curious exactly how SMI’s very exciting products will play into Apple’s long-term AR-revolutionizing ambitions.

Existing SMI eye tracking glasses claim to be able to “record a person’s natural gaze behavior in real-time and in real world situations with a sampling rate up to 120 Hz”, while an ETG Virtual Reality Package integrates “gaze vectors in VR cave environments using 3D shutter lenses and the optical head tracking module for SMI Eye Tracking Glasses.”

No, we don’t fully understand all that either, but it sounds big, important and brimming with potential for improving immersion and reducing motion sickness in future VR and AR headsets.


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