3Gear Systems Hacks Kinects To Create The Future of Gestural Computing

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It’s about that time. No longer just the source of hacking experiments for hobbyists, the Kinect is becoming a platform for real venture-backed companies.

3Gear Systems is a new startup among this wave of companies. The company is building a platform that uses the Kinect or other 3D cameras to detect hand movements and gestures for use with CAD software or in the medical industry.

“We can track the full expressiveness of your hands, your fingers and wrists and use it for applications,” said Robert Wang, who recently finished a PhD at MIT exploring computer vision and human computer interaction.

They have a set up, which costs about $330 to put together with parts off Amazon. It includes an aluminum frame that sits on top of your desk, plus two Kinect cameras for stereoscopic vision (you know, like how having two eyes is better for perceiving depth-of-field than one). Kinects aren’t necessary — other 3D cameras will do. But they’re popular and not that expensive.

With this set-up and 3Gear’s software platform, you can detect a person’s hand movements and either show them on screen or use them to manipulate 3D animations. 3Gear’s APIs take the raw 3D visual data from the Kinects and turns it into usable data about the movement of your hands. They’re available in C++ and Java, and C# and Python are coming.

Wang showed me a demo (which you can actually see below) where he put together some type of gun contraption on a computer screen with his hands. There are also medical applications where you can play with a human heart, turning it and going back and forth through it.

So 3Gear’s approach is to build a software platform instead of building one-off apps. They’re launching the company in the hope that other developers will play with 3Gear’s SDK and come up with interesting use cases. The SDK is in beta until the end of next month, and they plan to keep it free for hobbyists and researchers. If a larger company uses it (say one that makes more than $100,000 a year), they’ll have to work out a licensing fee on a case-by-case basis.

3Gear is backed by Manu Kumar’s K9 Ventures, Eric Chen at Uj Ventures, former Facebook engineering director and Dropbox VP of engineering Aditya Agarwal and Angellist’s Naval Ravikant.

There are a handful of other companies that are based off Microsoft’s Kinect including gaming company Zigfu, GestSure Technologies, which focuses on medical applications and YC’s Matterport, which lets people quickly scan indoor spaces. Microsoft also hosted a Kinect-themed accelerator.