SoftKinetic developed a 3D gesture recognition platform long before Microsoft released Kinect -- and it supports Linux as well as Windows. Despite the head start, the promised consumer gaming and television controllers have yet to appear. That should change in 2011, a company spokesperson says, thanks to an influx of venture cash, some big league partners and a plan to lure Kinect hackers into become its developers.
The Belgium-based company makes the "iisu" platform ("iisu" stands for the cute acronym, the “interface is U”). Last week, it sent out an all-call to Kinect jail breakers to try and lure them into becoming legit iisu developers. Since Kinect launched, it has been forced into all kinds of uses and applications that do not meet with Microsoft's approval including a hack that produced Linux drivers. Microsoft made some limp-wristed threats about the situation, and eventually backed down. Even the folks in Redmond must have been wowed by hacks like holographic video chat, Optical Camouflage, merging multiple 3D video streams and more unauthorized Kinect uses arrive daily.
SoftKinetic wants your gestures to replace your TV remote.
SoftKinetic says it wants these folks, and anyone else with gesture coding experience. To that end last week it put developer's kits on sale that include the prototype 3D camera, even though the company says its full developer program won't be officially launched until February, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Although the Brussels-based company has struggled to bring consumer products to market, that doesn't mean it's made no progress since launching in July, 2007. Through various partnerships, SoftKinetic has assembled all the pieces needed to create an open-API Kinect competitor including a 3D chipset, image sensors/cameras and set-top-boxes. In September, it released its 2.5 version of iis that added support for Linux, Adobe Flash and the Unity 3D and 3DVIA Virtools development platforms. At that time, it also landed about $10.5 million (€8 million) in Round B financing from a European telco.
The OptriCam and DepthSense 3D chipset.
Through a partnership with Optrima Electronics, iisu has been married to 3D image sensing hardware that is available to system makers now. Optrima's DepthSense chipset handles the 3D computations for devices such as Optrima's OptriCam family of 3D imagers. iisu also supports other 3D gesture cameras, such as Panasonic’s time-of-flight 3D image sensor. In February, the Softkinetic-Optrima partnership added support for Intel's Media Processor CE 3100 family, with the hope that system makers would now have what they need to build it into their gaming platforms and set-top boxes.
Orange Vallée, a Subsidiary of the France Telecom Group, took the bait and created its "Keanu" technology, a Kinect-like TV remote control [Link: Video]. In June, Netherlands-based Metrological Media Innovations signed on to develop set-top-boxes and offer the technology to television manufacturers. Softkinetic has been demonstrating gesture-based television since the fall.
More announcements and demonstrations will be forthcoming at CES Las Vegas in January and consumer products should (finally) be available in mid to late 2011, a spokesperson says.