Part magic, part mystery, the Kinect platform represents one of the coolest new genres of gaming. But what makes the Kinect tick? A super neat optical sensor, of course. But the company behind the sensor, PrimeSense, has its sights set on bigger things than just the Kinect.
Think microwaves, cars, and basically "anything else you can imagine."
Like many startups, PrimeSense started in a basement (or was it a Starbucks?) and is now providing Microsoft with some of the raw tech behind the Kinect. Sure, Microsoft perfected the software, but the actual optical sensor that allows for 3D depth perception and motion gaming is all PrimeSense.
Before PrimeSense, gestural control systems were primarily based on the "time-of-flight" method where infrared light is sent into the 3D space and returns to the camera to create a map of the area.
PrimeSense’s method actually encodes information within the light pattern as it goes out, so an image is projected back to the camera rather than a map. PrimeSense is credited for creating and prototyping the chip responsible for this technology.
Sylvie Barak of AroundThe.Net recently speculated, "Amazingly, [the crew at PrimeSense] has held their own despite what we assume must have been many, many attempts by Microsoft to buy them. The team is still doing what it does best, building amazing optical sensors, but reckons its tech will have a fair few more uses than just gaming."
Barak brings up an interesting point, why isn’t the company selling the coveted technology cool enough to be adopted by Microsoft?
Perhaps it’s because the company is not ready to sell. It’s still developing new 3D imaging technology. In a video interview, a company rep described that any kind of electronic, from TVs to air conditioners to cars might get the PrimeSense treatment in the future.
Hmmm... a 3D optical microwave? Or even better, a bathroom scale that assesses your body shape and tells you to tighten up!?
So, keep a look out for embedded 3D depth perceiving optical cameras - because soon they'll be everywhere!