Thursday, November 18, 2010

Microsoft: providing hope for machine vision entrepreneurs

I thought this was a pretty interesting announcement: Microsoft have just acquired 3D imaging pioneer Canesta. Canesta, you may remember, shot to fame a few years back when they launched both a 3D imaging sensor and a virtual keyboard.

It was the virtual keyboard that garnered most of the media attention – a cellphone-like device would project a QWERTY keyboard onto a flat surface and a CMOS sensor registered which “keys” the users fingers were “pressing” – but in my humble opinion the real story was the sensor. This used time-of-flight on a pixel-by-pixel basis to generate a distance map – sort of a 3D image. The resolution was pretty low but at the time it seemed like a real advance in CMOS manufacturing technology.

Well what’s interesting now is how Microsoft seems to have identified 3D sensing as an important technology. Obviously the Kinect is the hot Microsoft product in the holiday season run up, but that uses, as I understand it anyway, a stereo vision approach. What Canesta bring to the party is a single sensor method of achieving the same thing.

There’s no word on what Microsoft have paid for Canesta, though I’m sure the VC people demanded a substantial price. My takeaway however is this: the-grow-and-be-acquired business start up model is still a good one for machine vision entrepreneurs.


Anonymous said...

Kinect is structured light based system.

B Grey said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I guess I should have done my homework a little more carefully!