Microsoft in Talks to Acquire Developer of Motion-Sensing Controllers – Report

Microsoft May Acquire 3DV Systems, Designer of Gesture-Based Control Technology

by Anton Shilov
02/18/2009 | 02:58 PM

Microsoft Corp. is reportedly negotiating with 3DV Systems, an Israel-based company that developed technology which allows to control computers, video game consoles or consumer electronics using gestures. The move is widely seen as a way to add new ways of video game control for Xbox 360 and Windows platforms, however, Microsoft may be looking at wider usage range for the gesture-based technologies.


3DV Systems develops hardware and software technologies that visually recognize motions and gestures and enable control of video games, consumer electronics, computer programs or something else. Besides, 3DV’s technologies can be used in auto industry to detect possible collisions or necessity to deploy airbags. 3DV’s gesture recognition techniques do not require any accelerometers or gyroscopes, instead, they are based on recognition of actual movements by special depth cameras.

3DV Systems' image sensing technology generates distance (depth) information for each pixel or object captured by the camera, as well as color video. The technology is based on the Time-Of-Flight (TOF) principle. The Depth information is captured by emitting pulses of infra-red light to all objects in the scene and sensing the reflected light from the surface of each object. All objects in the scene are then arranged in layers according to the distance information sensed by the D pixels in the camera, providing the Depth information in real time as standard black and white video where the grey-level correlates to relative distance. Color data is provided using a normal color imaging sensor.

Figure 1 – moving light wall
Figure 2 – reflected light
Figure 3 – gating reflected light
Figure 4 – RGB and depth image

3DV's core technologies are in the 3D system level, in nano-second imaging-quality shutters based on GaAs or Silicon, as well as in extremely fast and tightly controlled illumination. The technology performs superior depth imaging (depth resolution of millimeters) in real-time (60 fps or more), using little or no time of central processing unit.

The latest achievement of 3DV Systems, ZCam, a prototype camera, is based on DeepC technology and is the company's smallest and most cost-effective 3D camera. At the size of a standard webcam and at affordable cost, it provides very accurate depth information at 60fps and high depth resolution (1-2 cm). At the same time, it provides synchronized and synthesized quality color (RGB) video at 1.3MP.

Technologies developed by 3DV could help Microsoft to considerably improve video gaming experience of its Xbox 360 game console. But the usage of gesture-based controls may be much wider: it may find ways into Microsoft’s next-generation operating system, it may be used inside consumer electronics, it may be utilized in auto industry or applied in other industries as well.

There is no secret that Microsoft does have a patent on a gyroscope-based controller, but Microsoft has never confirmed that it has plans to release such a device for its Xbox 360 video game console. Indeed, the world’s largest developer of software does need such a controller to more effectively compete with Nintendo Wii, which has become the most successful game console in the generation due to its Wiimote, which can control video games by sensing motions of a gamer.

Microsoft reportedly wants to acquire 3DV Systems for $35 million, reports Haaretz news-paper, meanwhile venture capitalists who funded the company invested $38.9 million.

Microsoft did not comment on the news-story.