Countless science fiction stories describe a futuristic world where robots work side by side with humans. In those stories, robots take active roles in everything ranging from agriculture to the battlefield, from household cleaning to gaming, and even dating. They're able to do this because they can perceive and understand the world in the same way humans do, by using their senses.
It may sound like a reality that's decades or centuries away, but in fact it's happening right now in the world around us, and PrimeSense is proud to have created one of the pivotal technologies that made this science fiction dream a reality.
The Startup Question
Back in 2005, a group of five science-savvy Israelis – Aviad Maizels, Alex Shpunt, Tamir Berliner, Dima Rais and Ophir Sharon – were trying to forge their own path and come up with the next big thing. Michael Shpigelmacher joined the group as an advisor. The methodology: seeking scientific answers to really big questions.
As most of them were gamers, and well aware of the stagnant gaming industry at the time, video games became the group's natural starting point. They let their imaginations run wild, asking themselves questions like: "What if gamers could wave their hands and it would be like they were holding a sword?" This led to the revolutionary idea of "technology that makes technology itself disappear,” and to the question that started it all: “What if we made a machine that could see?” The answer came in the form of a device that captured depth/color and sound in real time, enabling fast machine perception of the world, and the launch of PrimeSense.
After months of trial and error, working to overcome obstacles like making the product affordable and easily-accessible to the general public, the team came up with their revolutionary 3D sensor. It was an innocent-looking white plastic box that contained an RGB camera, an infrared sensor, and a light source.
This apparently simple device was the catalyst for Project Natal, which Microsoft introduced at E3 2009 as a teaser for what would eventually become the Kinect (the world's fastest-selling consumer electronics device, according to Guinness World Records).
Let’s get specific
PrimeSense’s depth acquisition was enabled by "light coding" technology, which works by coding the scene with near-IR light. This coded light is then read by a standard off-the-shelf CMOS image sensor, and sophisticated algorithms are used to decipher the 3D data and produce an image of the scene.
Initial applications of the PrimeSense technology focused on the gaming and TV markets, but it soon expanded to many other fields, including face recognition (rumor has it that Apple’s Face ID was based on PrimeSense technology), Google's Project Tango, service provider robots (room service, nurses, etc.), education, rehabilitation and healthcare, retail, and many more. In all these markets, PrimeSense technology has transformed machines and devices by giving them the gift of sight, enabling them to see and more effectively interact with their environment.
Let’s start our tour in television: Microsoft's Kinect was powered by PrimeSense technology that let gamers use their entire bodies to control play, as well as the actions and movements of their onscreen characters. Let’s move to PC and mobile: ASUS' WAVI Xtion used PrimeSense's core 3D sensing solution in a PC-oriented device developed primarily for browsing multimedia content, as well as accessing websites and social networks via the living room TV. Onward to interactive displays: Firecube SMART, an interactive multimedia solution for games, presentations and attractions in public spaces. Let’s not forget retail: SmartFit by Styku, a multi-channel retail platform for fit prediction and visualization, as well as the Bodymetrics pod, a full 3D body scanner designed to help users find the best-fitting garments.
PrimeSense in 2 Questions
What’s your claim to fame?
In 2013 PrimeSense was honored as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, making it one of only 23 innovative technology startups recognized for their potential to transform the future of business and society. PrimeSense also holds a 2010 Guinness World Record for selling over 8 million motion-sensing Kinect game system units in just 60 days.
Where do you see your technology in the future?