Sensors were the backbone of so many products at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. You could argue, then, that making them smaller, cheaper, and better are lynchpins for the consumer-electronics ecosystem. And PrimeSense hopes to lead the way by making 3D sensing devices that are more efficient, affordable, and smaller.
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PrimeSense made the 3D-depth camera sensor chips in Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system for the Xbox 360 in 2010. That became a huge hit, but now PrimeSense’s next-generation 3D sensors, dubbed Capri, can fit into devices that are 10 times smaller than the current generation of 3D-sensor devices. Capri is so tiny that the finished board is smaller than a stick of chewing gum.
“It’s the world’s smallest 3D sensing device,” said Inon Beracha, chief executive of Tel Aviv-based PrimeSense, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Our second-generation product is going to be embedded in many more devices, from TVs to monitors.”
Same performance – smaller package
The new sensor works like the previous one, sensing both depth and color in a three-dimensional space. It can identify people and their body properties, movements, and gestures. It can distinguish objects such as furniture and sense the location of the walls and floor. It uses near-infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. It sends the light out and then uses an image sensor to read the light that returns from the 3D space to the camera.
With Capri, PrimeSense used more advanced manufacturing technology to make the chip smaller, and it improved its algorithms, which include multi-modal 3D sensing. The middleware, or the software that interprets the 3D sensing data, used to run on a powerful computer or game console. Now the processing takes place on the tiny ARM-based processor on the Capri board.