Microsoft buys Israeli company linked to Project Natal

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

San Francisco (CA) - Microsoft has confirmed the acquisition of 3DV Systems, an Israeli company that specializes in advanced image sensing technology. A number of patents owned by 3DV Systems and Prime Sense have reportedly been licensed by Microsoft for use in Project Natal.

3DV Systems

"The [Microsoft] R&D center helped Microsoft in buying the intellectual property of 3DV Systems, and in the wake of that dozens of the company's employees were recruited to work at the development center," Microsoft corporate VP Moshe Lichtman told Globes.

However, Lichtman refused to comment about the Israeli center's involvement in developing Project Natal. "When there's something to tell, we'll do so," said Lichtman.

Microsoft had previously insisted that Natal was built "in-house," but conceded that the project was a "combination" of partners and native MS software.

"We want to ensure that we have great intellectual property protection," Xbox executive Shane Kim told Euro Gamer. "You have to have a strong legal approach, and this is not easy stuff. It has to be all buttoned up, legally."

3DV Systems' image sensing technology is based on the Time-Of-Flight (TOF) principle, which generates distance (depth) information for each pixel or object captured by a camera. Depth data is determined by emitting pulses of infra-red light to all objects in the scene and sensing the reflected light from the surface of each object.

Objects are subsequently arranged in layers based on the distance information acquired by the camera's D pixels, which provides real-time depth information as standard black and white video. Color data is generated using a standard color imaging sensor.

3DV Systems has filed for 22 patents related to its technology, 7 of which were granted to date.