Apple’s Next Big Thing: A Gesture-Controlled TV?

Tech giant confirms acquisition of Israeli motion-detection startup PrimeSense

Biz Digital Apple Unveil

Apple confirmed it has acquired Israeli motion-detection startup PrimeSense, for a reported $350 million — fresh fodder for speculation that the tech colossus is planning to intro a TV set you can control with the flick of your wrist.

Talks between Apple and PrimeSense, whose technology is used in Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect attachment, surfaced over the summer. On Sunday, Apple said it had acquired PrimeSense but declined to elaborate on its plans for the tech.

One potential application: Apple may be planning to integrate motion-control features into a HD television set, the subject of a favorite guessing game among industry observers for years. Conflicting reports say Apple may roll out the still-mythical HDTV for the 2014 holiday season, or perhaps a year or two later.

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It’s worth noting that the concept of gesture-based TV isn’t anything new. Nintendo pioneered the approach with its Wii handheld controllers, and Microsoft took it a step farther with the PrimeSense-based Kinect attachment. The latest TV models from LG and Samsung also have gesture-based remote controls.

Apple might also look to use the PrimeSense technology to add motion controls or visual-identification features to iPhones and iPads. The new iPhone 5s, launched this fall, includes a fingerprint reader that lets users unlock the device instead of punching in a four-digit code — and the PrimeSense technology similarly could let mobile devices recognize their owners using image recognition.

CEO Tim Cook has said Apple has “a very grand vision” for television, but the company has been characteristically mum on details. Wall Street analysts have been eager to see a category-busting product from Apple, whether that’s a smartwatch or a TV set, to drive future growth.

PrimeSense, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, had raised about $50 million from investors including Canaan Partners, Silver Lake Sumeru, Gemini Israel Funds and Genesis Partners.