PrimeSense, the company which designed Microsoft's Kinect, is about to launch a micro version of the device claimed to be small enough to fit in a mobile phone. How does this change things?
The Kinect has been a huge success and has opened up areas of application that simply would have been too difficult using conventional color-only cameras. What isn't well known is that the Kinect was designed by PrimeSense and Microsoft adopted it. PrimeSense has sold its own versions and supplied versions to other companies such as Asus. It also provides drivers and software for the generic Kinect depth camera, but arguably nothing as impressive as those provided by Microsoft. Overall, you could say that PrimeSense has done well from the Kinect but not really profited from the publicity.
This could all change if its next development on the Kinect is anywhere near as good as is being claimed. The Capri 1.25 is going to be shown at next month's CES 2013. As PrimeSense says:
Capri utilizes the next generation System on Chip, it is tiny and has small cost to match. This along with its break-through reference design, it’s perfect for embedding in consumer electronics devices such as PC’s tablets, laptops, mobile phones, TVs, consumer robotics…really anything you can think of.
Making a Kinect-like device smaller isn't an easy task as the accuracy has to be maintained and this means a high tech design. If it works and provides the necessary performance then this will be a potential change in how we do things. Being able to rely on finding a depth camera in just about every device opens up the possibly of gesture based interaction, body tracking, 3D object capture and advanced augmented reality running on mobile devices. Of course, there are likely to be applications we haven't thought of yet.
The only real competition to the Capri 1.25 is possibly the Leap sensor which claims an amazing accuracy and is also very small. At the moment, however, the Leap is being marketed as a peripheral to add to existing desktop and portable devices.
This is going to be an interesting area to keep an eye on in the coming year.