Microsoft to buy 3D webcam company for use with immersive Xbox 360 games?


Microsoft is apparently negotiating the proposed $35 million purchase of Israeli technology company 3DV Systems. 3DV makes a consumer video camera called Z-Cam that mounts to the top of a TV set or computer monitor allowing you to “use your body freely to control games, no wearables required, no limitations attached.” The company has raised $38.6 million in funding since its inception in 1997.

3DV acknowledges Sony’s Eye Toy, Micorosoft’s Vision camera, and the Nintendo Wii as somewhat similar ideas but says that “the revolution is still around the corner.”

“Move your hand, leg, head or finger, in any direction and setting, moving quickly or making fine, minor movement – all these gestures are easily detected and understood by the system, creating a unique personalized and immersive gaming experience. This experience is complemented by the ability to combine your own 3D image inside the game scene, in real-time.”

The technology can also be used for web conferencing, allowing a user to replace his or her background with different scenes, a feature that’s already present in various webcams from the likes of Logitech and even Microsoft itself. Taking things a step further, though, the 3DV system would let users “control applications using any intuitive hand and head gesture” along with providing face recognition in lieu of typing passwords.

Other applications include automotive safety (fatigue detection and airbag deployment), 3D vision for robotic devices that provides depth cues useful for detecting obstacles and navigating in challenging environments, and home automation via gesture controls.

It’s unclear whether Microsoft would pursue all of the various uses that 3DV’s technology offers but the implementation into Xbox 360 games and perhaps the videoconferencing angles seem that they’d be of the most interest to Microsoft right off the bat.

3DV Systems [Haaretz via]