Apple just bought a company that made eye-tracking ‘smart’ glasses

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A screenshot of SensoMotoric’s eye-tracking glasses from a YouTube video.
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SensoMotoric Instruments

Apple has purchased a small German company that specializes in eye-tracking, MacRumors reported on Monday.

The company, SensoMotoric Instruments, previously made a specialized pair of glasses that used eye tracking for a variety of applications, including athletics.

The company used the domain name eyetracking-glasses.com. They claimed their eye-tracking technology had over 100,000 users.

Eye tracking is a core technology that many working on virtual and augmented reality believe will be essential to truly immersive eyewear.

Headsets with eye-tracking can use the technology as a component in a user interface, so that where you’re clicking in a virtual world lines up with where you’re actually looking in the real world. Eye-tracking can also be used to reduce the amount of processing power needed to render a virtual world, or make virtual characters seem more real.

Last year, Google bought Eyefluence, another company specializing in eye-tracking. AR startup Magic Leap, which has raised $1.39 billion, uses eye tracking in its prototype headset.

SensoMotoric Instruments

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YouTube/SensoMotoric Instruments

Apple has never confirmed that it is working on a headset, but it released a set of augmented-reality software tools for the iPhone, ARKit, last month. Apple CEO Tim Cook has also been effusive in his praise for the technology in public speeches.

“I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day,” Cook said last year.

Apple has bought a ton of companies with applications in AR or VR, including:

    Metaio, which made AR software Primesense, which made a 3D sensor which could be great for AR Faceshift, a facial mapping company FlyBy Media, which made tech that can track the 3D motion of an object.

Apple confirmed the purchase to Axios. The price Apple paid for the reportedly 60-person company is unknown.