Microsoft said on Friday that it has acquired Canesta, a small company based in Silicon Valley who specialises in gesture-recognition technology.
Canesta manufactures a chip that, when used with a digital camera, lets devices see three dimensions. The technology is likely to allow for hand movements and body control such as scenes from the film “Minority Report”. The New York Times was the first publication to report the acquisition and notes that neither company disclosed the financial terms of the deal.
Microsoft’s controller-less Xbox 360 accessory, Kinect, goes on sale next week in the United States. The device has an RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone which runs proprietary software. Kinect allows for full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition.
Microsoft’s investment in this technology is likely to see them focus heavily on bringing gesture based control to Windows 8. Earlier this year a number of Windows 8 product slides leaked from a HP employee that pointed towards some new product features. Kinect integration, a Windows App Store and fast boot were all promised.
Microsoft previously purchased 3DV systems, who also make gesture recognition technology. With the push for this technology in gaming, it’s only natural that Microsoft would also want to port this to Windows. “I’m excited to be way out in front and want to push the pedal on that,” Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, said in a recent interview with NY Times. James Spare, Chief Executive of Canesta, and former Microsoft executive, also added “There is no other company more committed to natural user interfaces than Microsoft.”
With Windows 8 approximately two years away from general availability, Microsoft has the time to avoid any potential intellectual property issues and secure a number of key software patents. Canesta has secured 44 patents related to gesture control. Microsoft will likely port a number of improvements to Kinect during this time too. If Microsoft can perfect the technology and control most of the patents then it’s a strong market that the software giant will be dominant in.