Life after Kinect: PrimeSense's plans for a post-Microsoft future
When PrimeSense founder Aviad Maizels put a prototype of a 3D sensor . on a chip in front of Microsoft in 2006, he had no idea it would lead to. the biggest turning point in the Israeli startup's history. however, Microsoft unveiled an all-new Kinect, the result of years of. entirely in-house development -- without PrimeSense's assistance. Our challenge as the technology provider is to bring to the OEM a. technology that will allow these new revolutionary experiences while. fate would have it, the company returned to its chip-making origins a. year ago, creating a new product called Capri,. As exhausted as he was, at least he wasn't the bundle of nerves he. was seven years ago when he and a few fellow co-founders brought an. early prototype of their 3D sensor to the 2006 Game Developers. a retail solution called Shopperception used PrimeSense sensors. Each had backed successful startups in the past, including Diligent, a. storage company that was eventually purchased by IBM, and Kidaro, a. desktop-virtualization vendor that Microsoft acquired. But by the end of 2010, PrimeSense was already looking beyond Microsoft. It acquires depth via "light coding" technology that processes a. scene with near-IR light and then uses a CMOS image sensor to read the. meeting with Microsoft and worked with the tech giant on implementing. An example Dagan gave was to use a Capri-equipped smartphone as. something that can measure depth: "Instead of having to measure my. daughter's height every two weeks, I could just take a picture of her. Renaissance Las Vegas during CES 2013, where PrimeSense first unveiled. pitch that PrimeSense represented new paradigms of interactivity. a cheaper, lower-power and tinier version of its 3D system-on-a-chip. " Which, it turns out, was a good move, seeing as Microsoft. "As in any new revolutionary product, the challenges are. "Finish one game, then you get into the next game, and. ' I would've said sensors would be everywhere," Berliner said. of conference rooms inside a Tel-Aviv office building. with Microsoft at E3 in May of that year. It was their first time at. the famed video game trade show, and they could only afford what Maizels. Pro, which uses the same 3D sensor tech from the original Kinect, but. Microsoft sold an. average of 133,333 units per day between its launch on November 4th,. and it now has three offices in Asia, two in the US and one in its home. which Microsoft introduced at E3 2009 as a teaser for what would. prototype -- meaning the 3D sensor was able to track an entire person. By December, they had their first "full-body". house or office or mall. To that end, the company took a bold step forward last year when it. debuted the aforementioned Capri, which it claims is the world's. and a startup known as. Matterport utilizes the tech to scan and render any room into a. pre-measured 3D floor plan for easier interior design and furniture. Dagan said the company is working hard on pitching the Capri to OEMs,. to analyze consumer behavior in retail stores. times smaller and with 50 times better ambient-light resistance (the. " "The world should aspire to not see technology in front of them," he. said, picking up his white Nokia Lumia 920 in demonstration. " After months of trial and error, they came up with their 3D sensor on. a chip. they got into an office. tried to use a time-of-flight (ToF) camera, but then chose PrimeSense's. beyond Dance Central My first meeting with Maizels was at a hotel suite in the. download, so that developers could use it to create their own 3D. applications. Maizels and his fellow co-founders -- Ophir Sharon, Alex Shpunt, Dima. Maizels met Sharon, Berliner and Rais while. goal would be to make sure there's a sensor in every room in every. a professional demeanor. " What Maizels and his colleagues decided upon was a "technology that. is to promote and support 3D apps by offering low-level hardware support. there, with touchscreens and hand gestures, but Maizels wants to take it. a step further. Seeking to carve out their own path instead of just getting a. job, Maizels gathered the group to, as he put it, "come up with the next. short-range prototypes were actually ready around September 2005 --. about a month after the company was formed -- and that was even before. " Maizels told us the sensors. The investors offered PrimeSense a bridge loan, which gave the. Maizels explained it was attempting to change its product. design, which then evolved over time as the team wanted the product to. be as affordable as possible without sacrificing its overall integrity. PrimeSense boasts that it has three times the depth. technology would be natural, you would be. able to do things without even thinking. included game integration where they mapped the person to controls like. "If you asked me back in 2005, 'Where do you see technology in seven. OpenGL 3D point-cloud visualization software that showed images dancing. thought the Wii was actually a great thing for PrimeSense. potential ideas like a portable gaming device that utilizes motion. smallest 3D sensor. working in research and development for the military, while Shpunt was a. friend of a friend. coded light back from the scene, using a variety of algorithms to. extrapolate the 3D data. the Capri sensor to the world. PrimeSense offered up its NiTE Middleware as a free open-source. Despite the early success of PrimeSense, however, it did suffer a bit. we're playing games, you need to do it yourself. Maizels said. Tal Dagan, PrimeSense's VP of marketing, had nothing bad to say about. company a lot of money up front, but also for a shorter period of time. It was PrimeSense's first major. With 3D use cases that go far. "We're working hard on deals," he said slyly, with a tired smile and a. strong Israeli accent. OpenNI has already led to PrimeSense implementations far outside the. if there were any specific challenges to selling the sensor, Dagan. The first hardware prototypes were pretty simple in terms of cost. last week, has to be nothing compared to what they see this week. " As most of the founders were gamers, video games became their. they hired Ziv Hendel, who helped out so much in the company's early. Side-Kick, a motion gaming startup, to found a non-profit organization. challenges came in the form of Nintendo's Wii, which debuted in the US. in November 2006. This meant the group needed to show VCs constant product improvement to. assure them their investment was well worth it. "When the investors. " In all our interviews, Maizels kept returning to Isaac Asimov as an. inspiration. However, PrimeSense was located in Israel's equivalent of Silicon. happen without needing people to think about technology. Silicon Valley, where he spent the previous few days in a series of. meetings. For example, when technology knows who you are. technology still exists as an interaction between man and machine. "Some of the hardware was loaned to us by friends and colleagues," said. motion-sensing camera that made headlines around the world. off to sleep mid-drive or simply the ability to scan an object for a 3D. printer. The gaming industry was searching for something unique after. "We have a technology that can see, but cannot be. seen. " Looking back on it, however, Maizels. days that Berliner considers him an honorary co-founder. Hendel and Berliner took care of. demonstrations. Maizels thought. "light-coding" tech for gesture controls. hands of Hendel, Rais and Berliner. "It seemed like the whole gaming industry was stagnant,". are already in use in fitness centers in Europe, and he hopes to roll. Tall and slender, Maizels is soft-spoken, yet. and Maizels ran the show, keeping the all-important. partners either, but they did say the Capri was small and flexible. Redmond's own take on the software and hardware. Maizels had just arrived at the airport from. got early starting money to play around with. Shpunt and Rais took care of algorithms and physics. made technology itself disappear. Valley, or Silicon Wadi as it's known, and he was able to find investors. visited, we have to show them progress," Berliner said. Shpunt was the one who came up with the initial. In November 2010, it. partnered with Willow Garage, maker of robotics applications, and. It's a far cry from the company's humble beginnings in 2005, when. video game realm.