Continuing efforts to focus on its successful image sensor business, Sony announced today that it has completed the acquisition of SoftKinetic Systems for an undisclosed amount. The eight-year-old, Belgium-based business develops 3D vision technology for gaming, imaging and other applications.
Among the SoftKinetic technologies Sony is interested is the "time-of-flight" range image sensors, which use light to determine distances to objects. Sony said that it plans to combine that sensor technology with its own to develop "the next generation of range image sensors and solutions," according to a statement released today.
While not revealing how much it paid for the company, Sony said its acquisition of SoftKinetic is not expected to have any "material impact" on its financial results for the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2016. SoftKinetic is expected to continue operations as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony.
Potential for VR Tech
The addition of SoftKinetic's technology to Sony's lineup will likely benefit the latter company's virtual-reality ambitions. Last month, for example, Sony Computer Entertainment revealed that its next-generation gaming system would be called the "PlayStation VR."
"We will continue to refine the hardware from various aspects, while working alongside third-party developers and publishers and SCE Worldwide Studios, in order to bring content that deliver exciting experiences only made possible with VR," said EVP Masayasu Ito, division president of the PlayStation Product Business and vice president of the Software Design Division, in a statement at that time.
As Microsoft recent plans for the HoloLens holographic computing system indicate, virtual-reality and augmented-reality technologies also promise new capabilities in areas such as architectural design and education. The HoloLens itself is an offshoot of Microsoft's development of Kinect, the motion-sensing technology the company first introduced for the Xbox 360 gaming system in 2010.
IoT, Industrial and Auto Apps
Beyond gaming, VR and augmented reality, time-of-flight sensors also have the potential for many other applications in industry and beyond.
A company called Lely, for instance, uses distance-sensing camera technology to improve the accuracy of automated milking machines for dairies. And Leopold Kostal and Infineon Technologies aim to use time-of-flight sensors to improve driver assistance systems that can detect when a motorist is at risk of nodding off while driving.
Sony is putting an increasing focus on its sensor technologies business, and earlier this week said that it was spinning off part of its devices division into a new business called Sony Semiconductor Solutions. That business includes the production of sensing technologies used in smartphone cameras, an area where the company has seen double-digit growth in revenues. Sony has said the technology also offers opportunities in security, authentication, health care and other areas.
SoftKinetic's 3D vision technologies include sensors, cameras, modules and middleware used in a variety of platforms. The company's products are used in, among other things, smartphones, tablets, cars, TVs, 3D scanners, robotics, connected devices for the smart home and hands-free augmented-reality devices.
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