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Omek Interactive to launch 3-D camera for gesture-controlled games

Aiming at making next-generation games possible, Omek Interactive is announcing today that it has created a new Motion Game System that uses a 3-D camera to capture a player’s movements and integrate them into video game play.

In doing so, the company will be competing with the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation EyeToy already on the market and upcoming technologies from software-based rivals Softkinetic and GestureTek. The company is betting that 3-D camera technology will be far more accurate and fun. (Softkinetic’s chief executive Michel Tombroff will speaking at our GamesBeat 09 conference, by the way.)

The EyeToy uses 2-D technology that isn’t as good at capturing movement. And the Wii uses various kinds of cheap sensors, known as accelerometers, that can detect things such as acceleration but really can’t accurately capture movement in a 3-D space. That’s why there’s an opportunity for capturing movement in 3-D.

Omek, based in Bet Shemesh, Israel, isn’t developing the cameras itself. It will use cameras from companies such as 3DV Systems (rumored to have been purchased by Microsoft), PrimeSense and Canesta. Omek differs from its software rivals in that it is making its own games as well as technology. The company contends it can do 3-D skeleton-tracking in real time. Sony and Nintendo can capture the movements of parts of your body, but they can’t capture all of the subtleties of an entire body in motion.

The cameras it uses can detect how far away an object is at any given time. They can thus detect movement and translate those movements into the commands used to control games. So you can have very realistic user interfaces for game consoles. If you punch at the camera, for example, your character in a boxing game will do the same on screen.

Janine Kutliroff, chief executive, said the company has built its technology from the ground up and will make the initial games for PCs. The technology and camera could be adapted to game consoles at some point. It uses infrared technology in the cameras.

The company has 15 employees and has raised $3.3 million from Everett Partners, and Equity Group Investments. It was co-founded by Kutliroff, the founder of Internet voice firm Net2Phone. Her husband, Gershom Kutliroff, is Omek’s co-founder and chief technology officer. The company plans to hold live demos at the Game Developers Conference next week in San Francisco.

The company currently has two games in the works. Part of the idea is to get gamers off the couch, just as games such as Wii Fit for the Nintendo Wii have done. The company says it can engage the mind and exercise the body at the same time.


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