In June 2008, on a flight home from Europe to San Francisco, I was given a fascinating demo of some jaw-dropping technology.
I was sitting next Inon Beracha, CEO of Israeli company PrimeSense, which had developed a low-cost chip and software to do 3D machine vision.
The system used a pair of cameras and an infrared sensor to highlight people and track their movements.
On his laptop, Beracha showed me videos of people waving their hands in the air to control Wii-like games. He showed people controlling TV programming menus by gesturing their hands in the air. And, most impressive of all, someone flipping through a photo slide show like they were Tom Cruise in Minority Report. It was so slick, I asked him if it was CGI. It was real, he said, and so cheap, the technology could eventually be found everywhere in the home, office and car.
Of course, PrimeSense’s system is at the heart of Microsoft’s new Kinect game controller, which is getting rave reviews and looks set to be a monster hit. It’s a “crazy, magical, omigosh rush,” says the New York Times‘ David Pogue.
And it almost belonged to Apple.