Gesture controls — where you wave your hands in the air and make something happen on a display — are coming on strong as a new way to control game machines, TVs, and computers.
The latest proof is $10 million in funding for in3Depth Systems, a holding company with gesture-control subsidiaries. in3Depth is the parent company for Brussels-based Softkinetic, which makes software for gesture-control systems, and Optrima, a maker of gesture-recognition cameras. And Softkinetic Studios is making its own gesture-control video games.
The point is to create a one-stop shop to jumpstart a gesture-control business. In time, gesture-control technology will become as pervasive in user interfaces as the touchscreen and accelerometer have become in smartphones, said Michel Tombroff, chief executive of Softkinetic.
Optrima makes 3D camera sensors that can detect how far away an object is from a camera. The sensors can detect 3D space and anything moving within it. So it can detect whether you are standing still or waving your hands at the camera. Softkinetic takes input from the cameras and turns it into controls for electronic devices.
With 3D gesture controls, you can control something without using a remote control or game controller. You just wave your hands. Microsoft is using such as system — with technology from 3DV Systems and PrimeSense — for its Kinect gesture control system for the Xbox 360. Kinect will sell for $149 and will launch in November. You can use it to control everything from fighting games, in which you act out the punches, to sports games, in which you mimic sports moves.
In software, Microsoft is a rival of Softkinetics. The in3Depth technology is being targeted at a variety of applications, including set-top boxes, TVs, game consoles and computers. It is also being pitched to clients in interactive marketing and advertising, digital signs, healthcare and the military. Partners include Texas Instruments, Belgian telecommunications operator Belgacom, Internet TV provider Metrological, and Panasonic.
While the technology has been in development for some time, the funding is encouraging, as are the new partnerships the company has announced.
The $10 million is the first part of a second round of funding from Belgacom, Hunza Ventures and SRIW Techno. The company will use the financing to expand its technology development and commercialization. Softkinetic was founded in 2007 while Optrima was started in 2009. Altogether, in3Depth has 45 employees. Hardware rivals include Canesta and PrimeSense.