Why Did Apple Buy PrimeSense, The Company That Built The Kinect?

As we’ve noted elsewhere, Apple’s coasting. Really, Apple’s just not happy unless it’s innovating or moving on to new markets; how it’s treating the iPhone and iPad is remarkably similar to how iPods, formerly the company’s bread and butter, started being treated around 2007. Which makes Apple’s latest purchase all the more intriguing.

Apple has just finished buying Israeli company PrimeSense. If the name sounds familiar, they helped Microsoft design the Kinect, and do a lot of work in 3D imaging. And Apple is, of course, being Apple about why they bought them out:

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed the PrimeSense deal with the boilerplate comment the company typically provides when news of one of its acquisitions leaks: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

That said, Apple’s history is pretty instructive; Apple doesn’t buy other companies just to own them. They generally have a master plan in the works. But what?

Analysts clinging to the idea that Apple will someday put out a magical new television are insisting it’s because Apple wants gesture control on said magic television. You know, because gesture control is such a huge selling point.

It’s likely that Apple will be incorporating a Kinect-like sensor into its Apple TV set-top boxes; Apple’s put a lot of emphasis on fitness in its products lately, and it seems likely they want to expand that. But what’s more intriguing is to look at this in a larger context.

Apple, through Siri, has been pouring a huge amount of money into speech recognition. We’ve argued previously that Apple’s next frontier is home automation, and it seems likely that a gesture-and-voice based system would be ideal.

We’ll know sooner rather than later; Apple’s never been shy about getting products to market. And it’ll be interesting to see where this technology goes.