Apple Missed Getting Xbox Kinect Tech, Patents Smartphone Motion Gaming Anyway

Apple missed out on getting hold of the clever tech that drives Microsoft’s Kinect gaming device. No matter–Cupertino has patented some clever motion-sensing smartphone game tech anyway.

ifixit kinect teardown


Apple, according to one new report, missed out on getting hold of the clever tech that drives Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect gaming device for the Xbox. No matter–the boffins at Cupertino have patented some clever motion-sensing smartphone game tech anyway.

As Cult of Mac reveals, PrimeSense (who developed the technology behind the Kinect, and who do in fact still own the design and the IP, free of Microsoft influence) had developed some of the key systems inside Kinect in mid-2008. A reporter was shown a chip-and-twin-camera solution that could quickly process motion and 3-D depth-detecting imagery. The demo was given by PrimeSense’s CEO Inon Beracha, who noted that the tech was based on research for the Israeli military, and he’d been specifically hired to tout it around in high-tech circles to see if he could attract some attention and the necessary dollars to turn the idea into a real consumer product.

Among the many folks Beracha spoke to was Apple. He demonstrated the system several times to Apple execs and engineers. The company was interested, and wanted Beracha to sign a number of NDAs before they’d talk to him more seriously about what systems it might find a use in. He declined, noting the system was definitely going to sell, and “Apple is a pain in the ass.”

Two years later, Microsoft is preparing to launch Kinect–a motion-sensing, depth-detecting gaming system that will drive Xbox sales even higher. And what novel technology does Apple have in the gaming market?


A new Apple patent application was revealed this week that hints Apple’s still interested in motion-control gaming. But in a totally different way: Whereas Sony’s Move system uses a static camera and console in concert with a motion-sensing wand, and Microsoft’s forgoes any notion of a controller and relies on a sophisticated static sensor suite to detect your movements, Apple’s gaming device reasons that your smartphone is already totally packed with cameras and motion sensors enough to act as its own gaming controller.

The patent is sophisticated, and has an augmented reality element that could be considered novel, but in essence it boils down to using iPhones as motion- and position-sensing game controllers. Maybe, combined with the other clever patents Apple’s been filing in this space, and moves like inclusion of a gyro sensor in the iPhone 4, Apple’s plan to dominate the casual gaming market has some legs.


To keep up with this news, and more like it, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise.