GamesBeat

Motion-control startup Omek is bringing gesture controls to the PC (video)

After the smashing success of Microsoft’s Kinect motion-control system for the Xbox 360, a bunch of companies are getting excited about taking the technology to PCs and other devices. We profiled Sixense earlier today, and here’s a snapshot of motion-sensing software firm Omek Interactive, which was founded in 2006.

Omek Interactive is one of the companies making the ingredients for gesture-control systems, where you can use your body, arms, legs and head to control movement in games.

Microsoft shipped more than 8 million Kinect units in three months, while Sony said it shipped at least 4.1 million units of its Move motion control system for the PlayStation 3. Nintendo has also sold more than 84 million motion-control Wii systems since 2006.

But game consoles aren’t the only market for motion controls. At the Consumer Electronics Show, it was clear that expanding motion control to broader markets was one of the big vectors for innovation.

Janine Kutliroff, chief executive and co-founder of Omek in Beth Shemesh, Israel, said that her company has created the middleware and game development layer for gesture controls. Other companies such as PrimeSense and Optrima are making the chips and cameras on the hardware side of the equation, but Omek focuses on taking the raw data from the sensors and converting that into controls. It also provides a full software development kit for companies to make motion-control games. Omek is also making games and its focus is on extending motion control to the PC.

Kutliroff said that 15 to 20 game companies are developing games using Omek’s SDK to make games for the PC, although she also said there are some in the works for “embedded platforms,” meaning stand-alone appliances. Beyond games, other developers are working on applications such as rehabilitation for patients who need to rebuild muscles and exercise joints.

“Our goal is to be the technology enabler for the game developers,” Kutliroff said. “But games are just the low-hanging fruit in this broader market for motion control.”

Microsoft moved early in picking up companies with a lot of patents in the motion-control market. It bought two 3D motion-control companies, 3DV and Canesta, and bought chips from PrimeSense. It also licensed patents from GestureTek. But there still appears to be plenty of opportunity for companies to put together motion-control systems for the PC. One of those is Asus, whose Asus Wavi system links a PC to a TV and enables gesture controls for navigating through a variety of content. Omek is also working with others who will launch systems this year.

Check out the videos below that demonstrate a couple of Omek games. Yours truly plays Galactic Surfers, which was designed in-house by Omek.


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