In a bid to boost its augmented reality (AR) cred, Apple Inc. (AAPL) has acquired German eye-tracking firm SensoMotoric Instruments for an undisclosed amount. Founded in 1991, SensoMotoric makes an assortment of eye-tracking products for various purposes, including marketing and scientific research as well as virtual reality (VR) and AR. 

Among other things, two uses of the company's technology could be particularly useful to Apple. SensoMotoric's technology plugs into popular AR development engines, such as Unity, which should help Apple gather data about apps on ARKit, its platform for augmented reality apps. According to the company's website, SensoMotoric's technology can also be used for VR and AR eye tracking. This application could be especially useful for Apple in the smart glasses that it is reportedly developing in conjunction with Carl Zeiss. (See also: Is Apple Making an Augmented Reality Product?)

SensoMotoric's technology may also be useful to Apple in its efforts to develop a self-driving car system. One of the technology's applications is to reveal "driver behavior and and validate in-car systems." While the Cupertino, California-based company has not disclosed plans to manufacture its own car, it is reported to have leased six cars from Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (HTZ) for experiments in self-driving systems. (See also: Hertz, Avis Link With Apple, Google on Self-Driving.)

Apple revealed the extent of its ambitions in augmented reality at its Worldwide Developer conference earlier this year by unveiling ARKit, an AR platform similar to its iOS platform. The company has also made a number of acquisitions in recent times to bolster its AR portfolio. Included among these startups is Flyby Media, which maps spaces into the augmented reality realm, and Metaio, which enables simulations of physical world structures and experiences. (See also: Why Apple's ARKit Could Be a Game Changer.)

The AR/VR M&A advisory firm Digi-Capital estimates that the market for AR/VR will be worth $108 billion in revenue by 2021. AR is expected to contribute the bulk of that revenue, reaching $83 billion during this period. The firm stated that AR-enabled smartphones could be on the cards as early as 2018. "If they get everything right, AR phones could become the new hotness to drive mobile growth again. Who wants an old smartphone when you can have a magic window on the world?" the research firm wrote. According to Digi-Capital, Apple is the "best placed tech company" to drive revenue for mobile AR. (See also: Augmented Reality Gets Boost From Facebook, Snap.)

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