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Apple Acquires German Eye Tracking Firm SensoMotoric Instruments

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Apple has almost certainly acquired German computer vision company SensoMotoric Instruments, a provider of eye tracking glasses and systems, based on evidence compiled by MacRumors.


On May 2, Apple's vice president of corporate law Gene Levoff, representing Delaware-based shell company Vineyard Capital Corporation, granted power of attorney to German law firm Hiking Kühn Lüer Wojtek to represent Vineyard Capital Corporation in all business related to the acquisition of SensoMotoric Instruments.


On June 16, SensoMotoric Instruments filed several documents with the German Company Register outlining new articles of incorporation. SensoMotoric's previous managing director Eberhard Schmidt was replaced by Dr. Ali Sahin, one of the German attorneys representing Vineyard Capital Corporation.

Vineyard Capital Corporation is listed as having acquired all company shares of SensoMotoric Instruments.

Apple takes steps to hide its acquisitions through shell companies, which essentially only exist on paper, but Levoff's signature on one of the documents is a clear giveaway that Vineyard Capital Corporation is Apple. Levoff even notarized the document in Cupertino, California, where Apple is headquartered.

SensoMotoric Instruments recently updated its website, removing over a dozen pages with detailed information about its products. The website also no longer has a jobs portal, news blog, schedule of events and workshops, contact information, list of distributors and resellers, or mailing list signup form.

An archived version of the website from last week indicated the company was hiring, but the current version does not. Schmidt's name and headshot have also been removed from the website now that he is no longer managing director. Christian Villwock, Director of OEM Solutions Business, was also removed.

The acquisition is backed up by an anonymous tipster, who told us that he allegedly spoke to an Apple employee today who said the deal has been completed. Additionally, one of SensoMotoric's clients informed us that they have been attempting to contact the company for several weeks without hearing back.

Apple and SensoMotoric Instruments did not respond to multiple requests for comments. SensoMotoric's phone line was out of service.

SensoMotoric Instruments, founded in 1991, has developed a range of eye tracking hardware and software for several fields of use, including virtual and augmented reality, in-car systems, clinical research, cognitive training, linguistics, neuroscience, physical training and biomechanics, and psychology.

The company's Eye Tracking Glasses, for instance, are capable of recording a person's natural gaze behavior in real-time and in real world situations with a sampling rate up to 120Hz. As seen in the video below, one possible use case is for athletes looking to evaluate and improve their visual performance.


SensoMotoric has also developed eye-tracking technology for virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, which can analyze the wearer's gaze and help to reduce motion sickness, a common side effect of VR. The solution can also allow for a person's gaze to control menus or aim in a game with their gaze.


SensoMotoric's other eye-tracking solutions include standalone devices, such as the RED250mobile, which allows saccade-based studies to be conducted at 250Hz for researchers who require both mobility and high sampling rate.

Apple has reportedly prototyped a pair of "smart glasses" that would connect to an iPhone and display "images and other information" to the wearer, and SensoMotoric's eye-tracking technology could feasibly play a role in that product alongside solutions from Apple's other acquisitions like Faceshift.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also repeatedly expressed a "profound" interest in augmented reality, calling the technology "a big idea" like the smartphone. He said augmented reality should "amplify" human contact, but noted "there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream."

With iOS 11, Apple is delving into augmented reality in a big way, introducing an ARKit development platform that will allow developers to quickly and easily build augmented reality experiences into their apps and games.


SensoMotoric Instruments is headquartered in Teltow, Germany, near Berlin, and its website said it had an office in Boston as well. It's unclear if the company and its roughly 60 employees, according to LinkedIn, will merge within Apple or remain an independent subsidiary. Financial terms of the deal are unknown.

Eric Slivka contributed to this report.

Update: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," an Apple representative said in a statement to Axios, essentially confirming the deal.

Article Link: Apple Acquires German Eye Tracking Firm SensoMotoric Instruments
 
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djcerla

macrumors 68000
Apr 23, 2015
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all signs point to an iPhone-like, pirate-flag-on-roof endeavor currently brewing in Cupertino.
 
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VulchR

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2009
2,403
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I know a few cognitive scientists, psychologists and neuroscientists that are going to be a little worried about whether the company is going to continue to offer research-grade eye trackers....
 
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Dave245

macrumors G3
Sep 15, 2013
8,424
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This could very good, but my concern is how would they make it work for people like myself who already have to wear glasses in order to see? Plus they would need to avoid the pitfalls that caused the downfall of Google Glass.
 
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peteo

macrumors regular
Sep 23, 2007
224
134
Wearing glasses when your eyesight is fine sounds so incredibly hipster.

I remember when I got the first iPhone (after the price cut) I felt extremely conscious taking it out and staring at the screen. Now its laughable to think about that
 
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TimUSCA

macrumors 6502a
Mar 17, 2006
696
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Aiken, SC
I'm excited about nearly every Apple product that's come out, but I'll say the same thing about this that I said about Google Glass.

I don't understand why anyone would buy this. The concept is neat, but I don't see it having any success in the real world. Having data pop up while you're going about your business would be incredibly distracting. People wear glasses because they have to... because their eyesight sucks or the sun is in their eyes. I don't see people paying hundred of dollars to wear something on their face unless they absolutely have to.

Also, the cameras make people nervous and they will undoubtedly create a lot of attention that will create awkward conversations when you're just trying to go about your business.

Am I missing something here? It seems like it'd be useful, but not enough to warrant all the downsides that come with it.
 
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nfilg

macrumors member
Sep 5, 2012
77
80
even this guy looks cool! When you look at the people in the eyeTracking video

 
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Attirex

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2015
658
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NYT Magazine posts an article in 3....2....1...... ....about how mega-corps like Apple stifle innovation not only through militaristic structure, bloated bureaucracy, and slow-to-react steering, but also by snapping up smaller, innovative companies who would have otherwise gone onto change the blah, blah, blah......
 
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flipphillips

macrumors newbie
Jun 26, 2017
2
0
Camden N200R
SMI has never had competent / capable Apple support... so maybe now? Note also, Facebook bought the $99 eye tracker company EyeTribe, SMI's technology is 100x more sophisticated, but comes in at several orders of magnitude more expensive. It will be interesting to see how well this works out.
 
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Gasu E.

macrumors 601
Mar 20, 2004
4,652
2,686
Not far from Boston, MA.
I'm excited about nearly every Apple product that's come out, but I'll say the same thing about this that I said about Google Glass.

I don't understand why anyone would buy this. The concept is neat, but I don't see it having any success in the real world. Having data pop up while you're going about your business would be incredibly distracting. People wear glasses because they have to... because their eyesight sucks or the sun is in their eyes. I don't see people paying hundred of dollars to wear something on their face unless they absolutely have to.

Also, the cameras make people nervous and they will undoubtedly create a lot of attention that will create awkward conversations when you're just trying to go about your business.

Am I missing something here? It seems like it'd be useful, but not enough to warrant all the downsides that come with it.

Are you missing something here? Yes, the entire content of this post, which is unrelated to anything you mention.
 
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Will.O.Bie

macrumors 6502
Aug 29, 2016
437
1,143
I got my a$$ kicked in high school for wearing thick glasses, now I'm just gonna get killed :p

I guess style is not even in the same atmosphere when you're designing futuristic spectacles.
 
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Sill

macrumors 6502a
Nov 14, 2014
759
500
I'm excited about nearly every Apple product that's come out, but I'll say the same thing about this that I said about Google Glass.

I don't understand why anyone would buy this. The concept is neat, but I don't see it having any success in the real world. Having data pop up while you're going about your business would be incredibly distracting. People wear glasses because they have to... because their eyesight sucks or the sun is in their eyes. I don't see people paying hundred of dollars to wear something on their face unless they absolutely have to.

Also, the cameras make people nervous and they will undoubtedly create a lot of attention that will create awkward conversations when you're just trying to go about your business.

Am I missing something here? It seems like it'd be useful, but not enough to warrant all the downsides that come with it.


Keep in mind how many times in the past Apple came up with something incredibly unexpected. People had no idea there'd even be a use case for such an item until Steve was showing it off on stage, and then suddenly it was sooo simple, why didn't anyone think of that?

This product will be useful, but not in its current form. The team at Apple has a year - maybe two - of integration work ahead of them. But this was the major piece missing from the puzzle, the new skunkworks project I've been telling this forum about for nearly two years.

This is part of Project Magic. Its the last thing Steve was about before he died. And its going to be insanely great.
 
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mi7chy

macrumors 604
Oct 24, 2014
7,306
8,244
If Google Glass makes one look like a cyborg then this makes one look like a cydork.
 
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