updated 05:50 pm EDT, Fri October 29, 2010
Microsoft buys Canesta for gesture computing
Microsoft today bought chip designer Canesta in what's believed to be a strategy to move gesture recognition to the PC. The deal will give access to a processing system, CanestaVision, that can convert the image from a camera's CMOS sensor into 3D data for gestures with depth. Microsoft already uses camera-based motion in the Xbox 360's Kinect system launching just next week, suggesting that it's moving beyond its existing technology.
Terms of the deal haven't been disclosed, nor has Microsoft's ultimate aim.
The deal is unusual as Microsoft rarely acquires hardware companies. Kinect was based mostly on software from 3DV, which it eventually acquired, and PrimeSense. Canesta's technology could at a minimum be used for a more advanced version of Kinect in the future. It has already marketed CanestaVision heavily as a gaming-friendly platform.
Company chief Steve Ballmer, however, has signaled that he wants to bring gesture recognition beyond the Xbox 360 and implied that regular computing could use 3D motion detection. As touchscreens on traditional computers have usually been fatiguing, Canesta could be used to command a PC using Kinect-like gestures. It may also enable standing or wall computing where gestures are the only options. The latest chip from Canesta, the Cobra, would be small enough to fit in some notebooks or in a small add-on.
The move may help Microsoft regain an edge in computer interfaces. It has lagged in touch and added multi-touch through its Surface tables and Windows 7 significantly after Apple had introduced its own approaches in iOS. Tablets like the iPad have also left Microsoft scrambling as their touch-optimized UIs have been more warmly received than the still mostly mouse-oriented Windows approach. [via NYT]