Kinect-like Peripheral for PCs Coming This Year

I'm betting most of you don't know Kinect's 3D sensing technology isn't owned by Microsoft. The company that does resides in Israel, and they're called PrimeSense. They've been around since 2005, and describe themselves as "a fabless semiconductor company that revolutionizes the way digital devices see the world." Their fancy name for that 3D sensing tech? "PrimeSense Immersive Natural Interaction."

And later this year, they're planning to release it in a Kinect-like peripheral for PC.

The twist: They're partnering with PC parts maker ASUS to bring it to market, not Microsoft, the goal being to make using PCs in more casual areas like the living room more palatable. It's designed to operate using ultra-wide band wireless.

The other less alluring twist: It'll be called WAVI Xtion (space intended). I'm not sure how that's supposed to be vocalized. I want to say "Wavestation," but that's a Korg keyboard from the early 1990s (one I used to own, incidentally). And I'm thinking phonetical, e.g. "WAV-ee-EX-shun," not so much.

We'll probably get the proper pronunciation this week at CES in Las Vegas this week, where the device is on display and presumably available to try out. Preliminary applications include browsing multimedia content as well as Internet access and social networking.

The companion piece is something called Xtion PRO, a PC-exclusive software development kit for 3D sensing applications. PrimeSense and ASUS are also planning an Xtion online app store.

WAVI Xtion should be available in second quarter 2011, while Xtion PRO will be available already next month.

What does this mean for the growing number of Kinect-PC hacks? And what about Microsoft's own hypothetical Kinect-PC designs? It's unclear whether Microsoft's agreement with PrimeSense limits its use of the technology to the Xbox 360, or whether WAVI Xtion's intended to include PC gaming.

All we know at this point is that the press release emphasizes "controlling digital entertainment devices in the living room," including PCs, but also TVs and set-top boxes.

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