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    Earlier today Canesta signed a letter of intent to be acquired by Microsoft.  Canesta is the inventor of the leading single chip 3-D sensing technology platform and a large body of intellectual property.  According to Canesta, they have developed and patented new, low-cost, semiconductor-based methods for forming electronics images of nearby objects in three dimensions.  Unlike the sensors in digital still and video cameras that see the world as flat images, Canesta technology can additionally compute the distance from the sensor of every single pixel in the image, in real time, in any lighting conditions.  This has been implemented in single, low-cost CMOS chips that – along with the appropriate proprietary Canesta software – can bring electronic perception technology to a wide range of low cost consumer and industrial electronic products.

    3-D sensors are needed to enable “Natural User Interfaces” (NUI). Natural user interfaces mean that an electronic device could be controlled without any external hardware that the end user manipulates. Canesta’s 3-D input technology enables fine-grained, 3-dimensional depth-perception of the user and environment in virtually any kind of consumer device such as PCs, TVs, game consoles, and mobile phones, as well as automotive, industrial, medical and other products. Such products can then react on sight to the nuanced actions or motions of individuals and objects in their field of view, gaining levels of functionality and ease of use that were simply not possible in an era when such devices were blind.

    Canesta’s electronic perception technology forms 3-D, real time moving images in a single chip through patented methods which use light photons to “range” the image, similar to radar. The technology works from darkness to the brightest sunshine, and can effortlessly discriminate nearby objects from low- or no-contrast backgrounds.

    The silicon sensor chip develops 3-D depth maps at a rate in excess of 60 frames per second, and then performs additional processing on these depth maps to resolve the images into application-specific information that can easily be processed by embedded processor(s) in the end-use device or machine.

    Since Canesta’s software starts with a three-dimensional view of the world, provided immediately by the hardware, it has a substantial advantage over classical image processing software that struggles to construct three-dimensional representations using complex mathematics, and images from multiple cameras or points of view. This dramatic reduction in complexity makes it possible to embed the processing software directly into the chips themselves so they may be used in the most cost-conscious applications.

    Canesta completed recently the ‘Cobra’ 3-D time-of-flight (ToF) CMOS sensor. The Cobra is the world’s highest resolution 3-D input sensor, with a 320×200 pixel array and able to measure distance from pixel to object with accuracy down to a single millimeter. The Cobra sensor integrates a pixel processing engine, thanks to its leveraging of standard CMOS process, which processes sensor raw data and provides range data over either a MIPI or parallel port.

    The obvious correlation here is that Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Canesta so that their technology can be used for various Kinect functions and, theoretically, for whatever Microsoft has planned for their next console.  It should be interesting to see what will come of this partnership and what the end product will be that all of the consumers will see.

    What do you think of this acquisition?  Any thoughts or ideas on why Microsoft is acquiring Canesta?

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