In recent years, Apple has assembled its augmented reality team and supply chain through a series of acquisitions, high-profile hires, and strategic investments, but at least one potentially major deal was recently ditched.
According to sources in contact with Business Insider, Leap Motion, the motion-tracking technology startup working on AR solutions, was nearly one of those acquisitions. However, the acquisition talks fell through not once, but twice, according to the report.
The most recent attempt was Spring 2018, with Apple offering between $30 million and $50 million, according to sources close to the deal. By comparison, Leap Motion's most recent funding round alone netted $50 million (among the largest AR investments of 2017).
The deal reportedly progressed far enough for Apple to distribute offer letters, but then the talks fell apart days later, with sources attributing the fallout to negatives surrounding the company and its leadership team of CEO Michael Buckwald and CTO David Holz.
Leap Motion rebuffed Apple's previous overtures to acquire the company in 2013, with Holz reportedly expressing disdain for the would-be suitors. Instead, Apple went on to acquire PrimeSense.
The report is the latest in a string of bad publicity for Leap Motion, following last week's departure of executive Keiichi Matsuda and a lawsuit related to patent infringement claims filed in March 2018.
But the failed acquisition may also signal a setback for Apple's rumored development of augmented reality smartglasses. The company already has internal teams for AR displays via the acquisition of Arkona Holographics and hardware expertise through AR/VR headset maker Vrvana, to cite just a few specific capabilities.
Nevertheless, the acquisition of Leap Motion could have strengthened Apple's motion tracking technology portfolio to potentially enable a gesture-based UI, as well as hardware and software prototyping experience by way of Leap Motion's Project North Star design.
But with gesture recognition patents for hand tracking via its PrimeSense acquisition, it's not like Apple is necessarily lacking in this area of technology development.