Apple Acquires German Eye Tracking Firm SensoMotoric Instruments

Apple has almost certainly acquired German computer vision company SensoMotoric Instruments, a provider of eye tracking glasses and systems, based on evidence compiled by MacRumors.


On May 2, Apple's vice president of corporate law Gene Levoff, representing Delaware-based shell company Vineyard Capital Corporation, granted power of attorney to German law firm Hiking Kühn Lüer Wojtek to represent Vineyard Capital Corporation in all business related to the acquisition of SensoMotoric Instruments.


On June 16, SensoMotoric Instruments filed several documents with the German Company Register outlining new articles of incorporation. SensoMotoric's previous managing director Eberhard Schmidt was replaced by Dr. Ali Sahin, one of the German attorneys representing Vineyard Capital Corporation.

Vineyard Capital Corporation is listed as having acquired all company shares of SensoMotoric Instruments.

Apple takes steps to hide its acquisitions through shell companies, which essentially only exist on paper, but Levoff's signature on one of the documents is a clear giveaway that Vineyard Capital Corporation is Apple. Levoff even notarized the document in Cupertino, California, where Apple is headquartered.

SensoMotoric Instruments recently updated its website, removing over a dozen pages with detailed information about its products. The website also no longer has a jobs portal, news blog, schedule of events and workshops, contact information, list of distributors and resellers, or mailing list signup form.

An archived version of the website from last week indicated the company was hiring, but the current version does not. Schmidt's name and headshot have also been removed from the website now that he is no longer managing director. Christian Villwock, Director of OEM Solutions Business, was also removed.

The acquisition is backed up by an anonymous tipster, who told us that he allegedly spoke to an Apple employee today who said the deal has been completed. Additionally, one of SensoMotoric's clients informed us that they have been attempting to contact the company for several weeks without hearing back.

Apple and SensoMotoric Instruments did not respond to multiple requests for comments. SensoMotoric's phone line was out of service.

SensoMotoric Instruments, founded in 1991, has developed a range of eye tracking hardware and software for several fields of use, including virtual and augmented reality, in-car systems, clinical research, cognitive training, linguistics, neuroscience, physical training and biomechanics, and psychology.

The company's Eye Tracking Glasses, for instance, are capable of recording a person's natural gaze behavior in real-time and in real world situations with a sampling rate up to 120Hz. As seen in the video below, one possible use case is for athletes looking to evaluate and improve their visual performance.


SensoMotoric has also developed eye-tracking technology for virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, which can analyze the wearer's gaze and help to reduce motion sickness, a common side effect of VR. The solution can also allow for a person's gaze to control menus or aim in a game with their gaze.


SensoMotoric's other eye-tracking solutions include standalone devices, such as the RED250mobile, which allows saccade-based studies to be conducted at 250Hz for researchers who require both mobility and high sampling rate.

Apple has reportedly prototyped a pair of "smart glasses" that would connect to an iPhone and display "images and other information" to the wearer, and SensoMotoric's eye-tracking technology could feasibly play a role in that product alongside solutions from Apple's other acquisitions like Faceshift.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also repeatedly expressed a "profound" interest in augmented reality, calling the technology "a big idea" like the smartphone. He said augmented reality should "amplify" human contact, but noted "there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream."

With iOS 11, Apple is delving into augmented reality in a big way, introducing an ARKit development platform that will allow developers to quickly and easily build augmented reality experiences into their apps and games.

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SensoMotoric Instruments is headquartered in Teltow, Germany, near Berlin, and its website said it had an office in Boston as well. It's unclear if the company and its roughly 60 employees, according to LinkedIn, will merge within Apple or remain an independent subsidiary. Financial terms of the deal are unknown.

Eric Slivka contributed to this report.


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Apple Acquires ‘Dark Data’ Machine Learning Company Lattice Data

Apple recently paid around $200 million to acquire Lattice Data, a firm that aims to turn unstructured "dark data" such as text and images into structured data that can then be handled with traditional data analysis tools. News of the acquisition comes from TechCrunch, and Apple has essentially confirmed the acquisition by issuing its standard statement on the topic.


Lattice uses machine learning techniques to take mass amounts of initially unusable data and turn it into properly labeled and categorized data that can be used for AI, medical research, and more.
It’s unclear who Lattice has been working with, or how Apple would intend to use the technology. Our guess is that there is an AI play here: Our source said that Lattice had been “talking to other tech companies about enhancing their AI assistants,” including Amazon’s Alexa and Samsung’s Bixby, and had recently spent time in South Korea.
TechCrunch says the deal closed "a couple of weeks ago," with roughly 20 Lattice engineers having joined Apple.


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A Look at What Apple Could Do With Beddit’s Sleep Technology

Apple recently purchased Beddit, a sleep monitoring system that pairs a pliable under-sheet sleep sensor with an app, all of which is designed to help users analyze and improve their sleeping habits.

The acquisition is unusual because it appears Apple plans to keep selling the Beddit hardware while collecting sleep-related data from users. For that reason, we took a look at some of the things Apple might be planning to do with this data and how it might impact future products.

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Apple's Beddit purchase came to light because Beddit updated its privacy policy to both highlight the acquisition and implement Apple's privacy rules. "Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy," reads the site.

Apple appears to have purchased Beddit for its sleep sensing technology. Beddit uses a $150 sleep monitoring device that's placed under the bottom sheet of a mattress, collecting data on everything from sleep time and efficiency to heart rate and respiration. It also tracks movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity to determine factors that might disturb sleep.

Beddit's sensor uses ballistocardiography (BCG) to measure the mechanical activity of the heart, lungs, and other body functions, a non-invasive monitoring technology that's similar to the light-based photoplethysmography the Apple Watch uses to monitor heart rate.

With BCG, when the heart beats, it measures the mechanical impulse generated by the acceleration of the blood through the circulatory system, providing a wealth of data about the body.

Apple is likely interested in the sensor technology used in the Beddit device, and has indeed hired medical experts who have worked with ballistocardiography in the past, but the data collected also seems to be of interest due to the company's decision to keep selling the Beddit sensor.

Beddit's technology and data could be used for any number of things, from advancing sleep research for efforts like HealthKit and CareKit to implementing more advanced health-tracking technology and sleep monitoring functionality into the Apple Watch or other future wearable devices.

For the immediate future, it appears Apple will continue to sell the Beddit hardware as part of a standalone brand like Beats, but the company's longer-term plans for Beddit are unknown.


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Apple Acquires ‘Beddit’ iPhone-Connected Sleep Monitoring System

Apple recently acquired Beddit Sleep Monitor, an app and sleep system designed to monitor daily sleep habits through the iPhone, according to an updated privacy policy posted both on the Beddit website and in the Beddit app when creating an account. A link within the app also directs to the Apple Privacy Policy.

As of May 8, the Beddit privacy policy says the following:
Beddit has been acquired by Apple. Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy.
The Beddit 3 Sleep Monitor, which can be purchased from Apple for $150, is a thin, flexible sensor that's designed to be placed under the sheet on the top of a mattress. It collects and analyzes sleep-related data like sleep time and efficiency, heart rate, respiration, movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity.

All of the data collected by the Beddit Sleep Monitor is then made available to iPhone users through an accompanying Beddit iPhone app, which provides "personalized insights" and "customizable sleep coaching" to help users improve their sleep habits.


According to the Beddit website, the device uses ballistocardiography (BCG) to measure the mechanical activity of the heart, lungs, and other body functions. When the heart beats, for example, the Beddit sensor can measure the mechanical impulse generated by the acceleration of the blood through the circulatory system.

Based on the changes to the Beddit privacy policy, it appears Apple may have plans to continue selling the device and collecting health-related data from it, which could potentially be used to enhance future versions of products like the Apple Watch.


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Apple Acquires Popular Automation App Workflow

Apple has acquired well-known and popular automation app Workflow, reports TechCrunch. The deal was reportedly finalized today for an unspecified sum.

Workflow, first released in 2014, is an automation tool that can essentially do anything. It allows users to create a variety of workflows to accomplish tasks like creating GIFs from a series of photos, pulling images from a web page, translating an article, posting photos to multiple social networks at once, calculating a tip, and tons more.


It is equipped with a built-in Gallery, which allows people to quickly find and use a wide range of automation tasks, and it can be used to create custom automations.

Apple is purchasing the Workflow app and the Workflow team, including Ari Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, and Nick Frey, will be joining the company.
"We are thrilled to be joining Apple," said Weinstein in a statement. "We've worked closely with Apple from the very beginning, from kickstarting our company as students attending WWDC to developing and launching Workflow and seeing its amazing success on the App Store. We can't wait to take our work to the next level at Apple and contribute to products that touch people across the world.
Apple confirmed the acquisition of Workflow, which notably received an Apple Design Award in 2015 for its excellent accessibility features, likely one of the reasons behind the purchase.

Typically apps acquired from Apple disappear from the App Store, but Workflow will remain available and will be made free starting later today. The Gallery will continue to be updated on a regular basis, as will app integrations.

Beyond the app, it is not clear what Apple will do with Workflow in the future, and whether it will be built into future versions of iOS and macOS, but it is definitely a possibility. TechCrunch speculates that it could be used alongside Siri in the future, or perhaps be the backbone of powerful automation tools for the iPad.

Update: Workflow can now be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]


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