With PrimeSense, Apple Got Key Mapping Technology

There’s a lot of speculation about why Apple bought motion-sensor company PrimeSense. But I think the real reason has been overlooked.

PrimeSense’s chips were in early versions of Microsoft’s Kinect sensor, the gaming console that lets you wave your hands around to control it. So, many have jumped to the conclusion that Apple purchased the company for a component for its long-awaited, long-rumored TV.

I don’t think that’s it. Industry sources tell me PrimeSense’s motion-sensing technology for gestural controls is a little bit behind and that Microsoft doesn’t use it in the Kinect.

But PrimeSense’s technology is much more strategic for mapping, according to one person familiar with the company. In fact, companies like Matterport, which makes a camera for mapping three-dimensional spaces, use its chips.

We know Apple cares about mapping. The company bought WifiSLAM, an indoor GPS company, to help it map out malls and another indoor spaces in a race against Google, which is doing the same. Sooner rather than later, our phones will pull up scans of real spaces we want to visit or may be approaching. Those two-dimensional maps will seem very  obsolete.

As for the endless anticipation around an Apple television, I continue to hear that the company is more interested in set-top boxes for now and that some early prototypes haven’t had motion technology. Sure, Apple could add that technology over time but I don’t think we should be holding our breath for a device or for one controlled by waving our hands. Apple already sells millions and millions of very handy controllers. They are called iPhones and iPads.

An Apple spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a request for comment.