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Business - Written by on Friday, May 2, 2008 15:11 - 1 Comment

Derek Pokora
You may never need a controller again

Throughout the years, video game console companies, most notably Nintendo, have come up with some pretty crazy ideas for controllers and control surfaces. Throughout the evolution of video games, we’ve had a couple of standard controllers. The good old days involved many many hours in an arcade smashing the buttons and jerking the joystick playing Street Fighter Alpha. At home, you’d sit down in front of the TV and play with your gamepad.

Nintendo has been a company to push the boundaries with game interactivity. Not all of their controllers have been incredibly successful (Power Glove what?), but you have to give them credit for their ingenuity. The wiimote has been incredibly successful, and the recent addition to inserting it into a wheel for the new Super Mario Kart game is exciting. Games like Guitar Hero and Rockband have captured a large portion of the gaming market in a short period of time and who doesn’t still love playing Dance Dance Revolution every once in a while? And I’ll certainly never forget the feeling the first time I received the rumble of my haptic Playstation 2 gamepad.

But kids, it’s now time to put all of those devices away. Introducing, the ZCam.

The ZCam is a consumer videocamera that can capture video with depth information: with its 3D capture abilities it will allow you to play Wii-style without using any controls whatsoever. In fact, it is so precise that it will even recognize your finger gestures to fire a weapon or manipulate your computer like in Minority Report, but without gloves or any other external device. You become the gaming device.

About the size of a webcam, 3DV Systems’ ZCam is fitted with lasers that project near-infrared light and a digital camera that picks up the light after it reflects off objects. By measuring the intensity of the reflections (by ordering the objects in the scene by layers in the Z axis), the software creates a three-dimensional map, accurate down to half a millimeter, at 60 frames per second. The ZCam can also hold a second camera that records regular color video. Combining that video with the 3-D map allows the device to not only translate your gestures but also render you as a 3-D avatar in the game. While there have been professional cameras with depth capture in the past, this is the first time that a device of such characteristics is cheap enough to be built into any game system or computer.


Even though it may not be as precise and flexible as a real full 3D motion tracking system, it can indeed provide with a new level of interactivity in video games and any application—like computer user interface manipulation.

Although I can’t see this device working for all video games, as I’m sure people will still want to use devices for driving and flight simulators, I think this is incredible technology. It was first released at CES 2008, and should be available in the second half of this year for roughly $100. Not too bad.

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Wikinomics» Blog Archive » Microsoft & Sony at E3 - augmented reality approaches
Jun 4, 2009 12:01

[...] appears to be a depth sensing camera, something which my colleague Derek wrote about in “You may never need a controller again“. It’s a move that suggests that Microsoft got a pretty good deal when it ended up [...]

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