Primesense, an Israeli chip designer, today confirmed its partnership with Microsoft on Xbox’s 360 motion controller, codenamed Project Natal. And at CES 2010 last January, Primesense showed off the technology in applications besides video games. At the time, the company couldn’t say it was working with Microsoft (Microsoft reportedly acquired an Israeli maker of 3D cameras last year, but no relation to PrimeSense there). Finally, everything’s out in the open.
What that means is the company that played a role in Project Natal’s birth is taking its 3D-sensing technology elsewhere. One use, confirmed back in January, is Cyberlink’s PowerCinema movie player for Windows, which lets you navigate through menus with a wave of the hand, Minority Report-style. Harry uploaded a demo last January on YouTube, and despite what some of the commenters on that page say, the technology works in real life, too. We’ve both seen it up close and in person.
The camera can detect gestures, so in a virtual remote application, you’d flick your hand or make some other pre-defined motion to activate the controls. Once your hands fall to the side, the remote disengages. Primesense’s technology could also be used in set-top boxes, on computers and even in biometrics, such as facial recognition for PC profiles or age-restricted video content. One other application Primesense demonstrated in January was a green screen without the green screen, as the camera can easily superimpose images behind the user without erecting a sheet of colored paper in the background.
I’m still most excited to see how 3D sensing plays in video games, but it’s good news that Microsoft isn’t hogging the technology. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more after Microsoft puts on a big show for Project Natal at the E3 video game expo in June.