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Prime Sense claims to have the best 3D game controller

A few months ago, VentureBeat editor Matt Marshall highlighted the various players in the gesture recognition technology space, speculating that “one day, very soon, you’ll be able to control an avatar or character on a screen with a mere gesture of your hands or body.”

That day is here, says Prime Sense CEO Inon Beracha. The Tel Aviv, Israel-based company believes it will be the “Intel inside” for the 3D peripheral world, and with a new $20.4 million second round of funding, it may have the cash to make its vision happen.

Prime Sense’s product is a device which allows a computer to perceive the world in 3D and derive an understanding of the world based on sight, just the way humans do, Beracha says. The device includes a pair of sensors — which “see” a user — and a digital “brain” that understands movement.

The device is plug-and-play, but won’t be sold on its own. Rather, it will be packaged with other companies’ products.

“[The product is] like you’re wearing a suit with tens of thousands of Wiis on your body,” said Beracha, who in 2000 helped take Ceragon Networks, a provider of high-capacity Ethernet wireless solutions that he co-founded, public on Nasdaq,

Prime Sense — whose product was demoed at the Consumer Electronics Show in February — has signed many “big names” not only in the gaming industry, but across the board in consumer electronics as well.

Compared with competing technologies, Prime Sense is superior in terms of both price and functionality, according to Beracha. “We are doing 3D capturing,” he says. “The competition focuses on ‘time of light’ technology — flashing a very strong IR light and measuring their reflection— and it requires quite expensive components including a high speed shutter, which is very expensive.”

Those competitors, profiled here, include Softkinetic, XTR, Oblong Industries, 3DV systems, and GestureTek.

Although Beracha sees the Nintendo Wii as a competitor, he claims Prime Sense’s technology is better and cheaper, saying that the electronics carrying their product will cost less than Nintendo’s Wii.

“Since the mouse was introduced, the complexity of consumer devices has evolved dramatically. In comparison, user interfaces have remained under-developed. Prime Sense’s technology propels user interfaces straight into the future,” Maizels said.

Prime Sense has kept most of its work secret, although a meeting with Beracha several months ago left VentureBeat’s Chris Morrison impressed with the technology. But although the company presented at CES, it has remained relatively quiet. Beracha said that the biggest announcements will come from its partners.

Although Primse Sense seems positioned to do well in its own space, there are other technologies on the horizon. Several companies are lining up to create a cheap competitor to the Wii controller. There’s also mind-reading technology from the likes of Emotiv and Neurosky.

Prime Sense previously received $9 million in a previous round of funding from two of Israel’s leading VCs, Genesis Partners and Gemini Israel Funds. A new investor, Canaan Partners, led the current round.

David Adewumi, a contributing writer with VentureBeat, is the founder & CEO of http://heekya.com a social storytelling platform billed “The Wikipedia of Stories.”