Metaio acquisition brings Apple's PrimeSense pickup into focus

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 2015
Apple's heretofore puzzling buyout of Israeli sensor firm PrimeSense -- which created hardware designed to "see" in three dimensions -- now makes more sense in light of last week's acquisition of Metaio, a German software company specializing in augmented reality technology.



Apple snagged PrimeSense in late 2013 for $345 million, making it one of the largest deals in Apple's history. Until then, PrimeSense was known mostly for designing the first-generation Kinect for Microsoft.

Those trying to figure out what Apple might do with PrimeSense initially focused on Kinect-like applications. The consensus was that PrimeSense's technology would eventually make its way into the Apple TV, either to enable a new gaming use case or to replace the traditional remote control.

That could still be the case, but it seems that something more was brewing in Cupertino.
Picking up both PrimeSense and Metaio indicates big augmented reality ambitions at Apple.
Last week, Apple acquired Metaio, a well-known name in the augmented reality space. Metaio's technology powers most of the popular AR applications in the market today --?Ikea's well-received virtual catalog, for instance, along with Audi's digital owner's manual and Ferrari's AR showroom app.

All of these applications work quite well in their current incarnations, but there are limitations to what AR can achieve when it's working with a flat plane. Depth can be inferred from images, of course, but more accurate three-dimensional mapping means more immersive AR.

As it happens, three-dimensional mapping was PrimeSense's reason for being.

Among other applications, PrimeSense technology was used by Qualcomm for early versions of its Vuforia AR platform and by iRobot for its Ava autonomous robot platform, which can navigate around new spaces independently.





One can fathom numerous uses for augmented reality at Apple --?AR maps and games immediately spring to mind, as do more esoteric uses, like a new method of filmmaking. Imagine doing away with chromakeying --?known colloquially as green screening --?in favor of a system that can intelligently differentiate between actors and background objects, and is only available for use with Final Cut.

Pelican Technology CEO Kartik Venkataraman predicted a similar use case for his company's light field technology --?which Apple is also exploring --?in 2013.

"Instagram applies filters to the whole scene, but this allows you to apply filters to different layers of the scene," Venkataraman said. "That gives the potential for creating much more interesting filters."

No matter what product eventually materializes, it seems a safe bet that Apple hasn't spent hundreds of millions of dollars just to let us navigate Netflix by waving our hand in the air.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    stargazerctstargazerct Posts: 227member
    Everyone seems to be considering handhelds and ATV for these acquisitions' tech, but wonder if any can be used in cars? Windshield AR or an in-dash nav map are two things that come to mind?
  • Reply 2 of 27
    Exactly what I was just thinking. Imagine a car with a windshield HUD featuring a 3D mapping system that could mark upcoming milestones? Alert you to road conditions? So much potential there.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    applesauce007applesauce007 Posts: 1,579member

    An absolute gem for augmented reality and visual search technologies.

    The synergy between Metaio and PrimeSense is obvious.

     

    Very valuable for augmented reality maps, continuous search and 3D user interfaces.

     

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  • Reply 4 of 27
    peteraltpeteralt Posts: 155member
    Hmm, very interesting. I still hope to see PrimeSense sensors in future iPhones, iPads, Apple TV's, Apple Watches, and Macs. The potential is painfully obvious for programmers like myself. 3D mapping for images, 3D gestures, games, 3D face tracking, touchless "mouse" pointing, realtime 3D navigation of the immediate vicinity, collision detection, etc.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,505member
    peteralt wrote: »
    Hmm, very interesting. I still hope to see PrimeSense sensors in future iPhones, iPads, Apple TV's, Apple Watches, and Macs. The potential is painfully obvious for programmers like myself. 3D mapping for images, 3D gestures, games, 3D face tracking, touchless "mouse" pointing, realtime 3D navigation of the immediate vicinity, collision detection, etc.

    Yes!

    Also, the 3D filtering/layering of individuals and objects for video as an alternative to green screening and rotoscoping ... think of a photograph or video composed of manipulatable 3D objects -- after the fact. Lots of uses in sports, training, entertainment ,,,

    The same techniques could ne used to analyze and manipulate 3D medical images!
  • Reply 6 of 27
    peteraltpeteralt Posts: 155member
    Yes!

    Also, the 3D filtering/layering of individuals and objects for video as an alternative to green screening and rotoscoping ... think of a photograph or video composed of manipulatable 3D objects -- after the fact. Lots of uses in sports, training, entertainment ,,,

    The same techniques could ne used to analyze and manipulate 3D medical images!

    I've wondered why the iPhone 6/6+ have the speaker and proximity sensor in the dead center and the front camera on the unbalanced left of center. My theory has been that the space on the right of the front speaker is being reserved for a PrimeSense sensor for the 6S/6S+. There is no other logical explanation for that design anomaly.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    With apple vans, 3d sensors and Metaio maybe we will get a 3d version of street view.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    peteralt wrote: »
    I've wondered why the iPhone 6/6+ have the speaker and proximity sensor in the dead center and the front camera on the unbalanced left of center. My theory has been that the space on the right of the front speaker is being reserved for a PrimeSense sensor for the 6S/6S+. There is no other logical explanation for that design anomaly.

    Or they didn't want to make the phone taller? ;)
  • Reply 9 of 27
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Exactly what I was just thinking. Imagine a car with a windshield HUD featuring a 3D mapping system that could mark upcoming milestones? Alert you to road conditions? So much potential there.

    I mentioned this months ago(sorry had to say it). We were discussing how Apple could revolutionize cars.

    Imagine Siri saying "Here is your destination" with a huge green arrow pointing down at a house.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    peteraltpeteralt Posts: 155member
    Or they didn't want to make the phone taller? ;)
    Having it left of the speaker (which is dead center) has nothing to do with making it shorter. They could have centered it with the speaker.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    I wonder if it's more about acquiring the wetware for primary research, not rolling their current technology into today's products. What comes from this may not even be recognizable as having come from this, years down the road.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    I watched "Man of Steel" on TV last night. Let's hope whatever Apple is doing has nothing at all in common with how Russell Crowe's character Jor-El (Superman's dad) helped Lois Lane escape the bad guys. I mean, being able to create super-realistic interactive 3-D virtual people would be great; but let's not require them to make virtual grabby hand motions to operate the same computer-based system with which they are existentially integrated.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    With Nintendo moving at a snails pace they should hope Apple doesn't use this tech for gaming.


    Nintendo has invented %99 of everything you see in gaming so I'd hate it if this hurt them.
    I don't care if the copycats go out of business though.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    applesauce007applesauce007 Posts: 1,579member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by maxkraft View Post



    With apple vans, 3d sensors and Metaio maybe we will get a 3d version of street view.



    The ground level images will be stitched together and integrated seamlessly into the FlyOver images.  (Presumably using enhanced versions of the SAAB C3 Technologies stuff where Fly is replaced by Drive or Walk as in "Drive-Generate-View" as shown below.)

     

    You will eventually be able to virtually visit anywhere in the world by FlyingOver, Landing on the street level, Browsing around you on the street, going inside various POIs and browsing around.

     

    image

     

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    Get ready for some amazing stuff...

  • Reply 15 of 27
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,580member

    The ground level images will be stitched together andl integrated seamless into the FlyOver images.

    You will eventually be able to virtually visit anywhere in the world by FlyingOver, Landing on the street level, Browsing around you on the street, going inside various POIs and browsing around.

    <iframe width="640" height="385" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/pbo-ArJvLYU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe>


    Get ready for some amazing stuff...

    Incidentally, I noticed that Google has changed their in-browser desktop version of Google Earth (accessible in Google Maps) recently. There seems to be a remarkable instantaneous 3-D image synthesis going on there now, which can be seen as one orbits around a scene. Cars and objects appear and disappear as the perspective changes and different satellite imagery is used, possible in combination with ground level photography. It's quite something to see.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    I fully expect to see the fruits of this acquisition at wwdc 2015 in two weeks. Can't wait!!

    /s I wish!
  • Reply 17 of 27
    wilymonwilymon Posts: 1member
    It seems to me that the LinX multi-camera acquisition is also related. Imagine the iPhone being able to build 3D maps of your surroundings instantly. In the Vuforia video, the person has to walk around the table to build the 3D map. It would be really cool if instant.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    slprescottslprescott Posts: 750member
    These two acquisitions are very exciting. When Apple acquired AuthenTec I was very excited despite the press coverage being fairly muted. That turned out to be a great addition to their product set. These new 3D technologies are in the same vein -- proven technologies that are ready for a company like Apple to expose them to a much larger audience and deliver dramatically new capabilities.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    thewhitefalconthewhitefalcon Posts: 4,453member
    peteralt wrote: »
    Having it left of the speaker (which is dead center) has nothing to do with making it shorter. They could have centered it with the speaker.

    1000
  • Reply 20 of 27
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    peteralt wrote: »
    I've wondered why the iPhone 6/6+ have the speaker and proximity sensor in the dead center and the front camera on the unbalanced left of center. My theory has been that the space on the right of the front speaker is being reserved for a PrimeSense sensor for the 6S/6S+. There is no other logical explanation for that design anomaly.

    of course there is. but unless you're an electrical engineer working on the iPhone, you're simply ignorant of what those reasons may be.
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