Texas Instruments targets 3D gaming with Softkinetic-Optrima gesture recognition SDK

[Belgium] Earlier this week, 3D gesture recognition software developer Softkinetic and VUB university spin-off company Optrima, inventor of patented 3D sensing technology announced a joint venture offering what they say is the most complete 3D depth-sensing imaging and gesture recognition interface solution on the market. It’s available now, and is being offered to OEMs as an all-in-one product, capable of being embedded into a wide variety of consumer digital and electronic devices. One of the first to take up the technology is semiconductor giant, Texas Instruments.

As part of the deal, terms of which are undisclosed, Softkinetic-Optrima (the JV known as SKO to avoid confusion) will port its 3D gesture recognition middleware called iisu directly onto TI’s intelligent digital signal processors. It’ll also provide direct support for OptriCam, SKO’s 3D imagers product, to TI-based development boards.

So app developers get the tools and APIs they need to develop advanced gesture-based applications without having to muck about with the technicalities of the 3D depth sensing cameras.

Essentially, it’s an SDK offering a rich set of interfaces and predefined gesture-based patterns, letting TI’s customers focus their effort on the game play itself — or whatever 3D gesture-controlled app they’re building.

I recently spoke to Softkinetic’s CEO Michel Tombroff about the upcoming deal, and though he couldn’t at the time name the as-yet-unannounced partner, he was obviously brimming with enthusiasm for SKO’s goal of getting affordable gesture recognition apps into homes across Europe and the US by the end of 2010.

Which just happens to be when Microsoft’s much-anticipated Project Natal is due.

SKO sees a thin competitive marketplace at the moment. It counts among its top rivals interactive displays creator GestureTek and — surprise, surprise — Microsoft.

Softkinetic’s software has already been integrated into a TV remote control system for Orange Vallée, a division of the Orange Group which helps the company identify and leap on new trends. Here’s a video of Orange Vallee’s gesture controlled TV, demoed at CES 2009:

The software also helped the Dutch physical therapy game for elderly people, SilverFit, to first prize in the category ‘Innovation Application Methods and Environments’ at the European Innovative Games Award 2009 held in Frankfurt earlier this month.

Between SKO and TI (resisting the urge to make ‘beam me up’ jokes…), there’s a clear commitment to ride the building wave of 3D imaging, which Tombroff says is entering a phase of rapid growth. He estimates it’ll be a billion-dollar market by 2013. Another partner announcement is expected imminently – watch this space.