Tag Archives | PrimeSense

PrimeSense and Asus Bringing Kinect Tech to PCs

It was just over a year ago when PrimeSense showed me (and Harry, separately) a demo of the motion-sensing camera technology that helps power Microsoft’s Kinect game controller. Now, PrimeSense is spreading out and partnering with Asus for gesture control on PCs.

The WAVI Xtion is a motion sensor for browsing multimedia and Internet content, using PrimeSense’s camera and infrared sensor tech to track users in 3D space. It’s meant for home theater PCs and will be commercially available in the second quarter, price unspecified.

More exciting, I think, is Xtion PRO, a tool for third-party developers to create their own gesture-based applications and software. Asus plans to host an online store for developers to hawk their motion-sensing apps, presumably to consumers who buy the WAVI Xtion sensor. The PRO development tools are coming in February.

It all sounds kind of lofty, given that Asus is primarily a hardware company, but if all goes to plan on the software front, Asus could be the the first company to create a market for the creativity of Kinect hackers. We’ve seen some pretty impressive tech demos from hobbyists, so I can only imagine what would come from financial incentives in the form of an app marketplace.

PrimeSense will have the whole setup on display at the Consumer Electronics Show this week. I plan to check it out.

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Project Natal Tech to Appear in Other Products

This year, Microsoft will release a camera that tracks 3D motion as input for the Xbox 360, but the same technology will also be used in other consumer electronics.

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.

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PrimeSense: Remote Control Without the Remote Control

Was it really only three years ago that Nintendo’s Wii controller seemed mindbendingly innovative? Before long, the fact that the Wii involves a controller at all may feel a tad retro.

One of my favorite CES demos this year was in a little private room on the periphery of the show floor. PrimeSense is an Israeli chip designer that’s building a processor to enable consumer-electronics devices of all sorts to accept gestures as input. It uses a cameras/infrared sensor to spot people and figure out their movements–even subtle ones like a wave of the fingertips. And then it can use those movements to control consumer-electronics devices, games, and maybe even eventually cars.

Here’s a video the company prepared showing the basic idea:

The video doesn’t show the use of the technology that really knocked my socks off when the company showed it to me: a TV-based photo viewer that’s reminiscent of the one offered by Microsoft’s Surface tabletop computer. Except PrimeSense’s version doesn’t make you touch anything–you just move your hands around in middair to move, rotate, and resize pictures on the TV. It’s multi-touch without the touch.

It’s also the closest thing to real-world Minority Report I’ve witnessed so far:

PrimeSense isn’t new (it also previewed what it was up to at CES 2008) and doesn’t lack for competitors trying to do vaguely similar things (such as Canesta). And the example of controller-less control that’s grabbed the most attention so far is Microsoft’s Project Natal for the Xbox 360, which is supposed to show up by the 2010 holiday season. But PrimeSense is finally talking about its technology showing up in commercial projects–the first of which is a new version of CyberLink’s PowerCinema movie player for Windows which will let you use gestures to control playback.

One way or another, I look forward to the day when the only universal remotes we’ll need are our own ten fingers…