Last fall Apple acquired PrimeSense, the company that originally licensed the technology Microsoft used to develop the Kinect. Since then things have been quiet, but today one of PrimeSense's patents was transferred to Apple — specifically one that deals with the optical projection technology that makes motion tracking possible.
The patent covers the technology behind PrimeSense's "lens array projector," which is what the company uses to split the original source of infrared light into an even field of points of light. Accurate motion tracking is then made possible by measuring that evenly-split field and the things that disrupt it — say a hand, arm, or a person's entire body.
While Apple often acquires and registers patents that seemingly go nowhere, it's easy to imagine how this specific technology could show up across Apple's various platforms. Motion tracking and gesture-based interfaces could be integrated into a new version of Apple TV, or make their way into the company's personal computers and iPhones.
Even though Microsoft ran into trouble appealing to consumers with the Kinect (it was unbundled from the Xbox earlier this year), the device — and the technology that powers it — has repeatedly shown up in things like music videos and elaborate creative projects. It's a tool that developers seem to love working with as they attempt to push the boundaries of interaction, and it would be hard to imagine Apple not exploring their options now that they own the patent.