In honor of the approaching second birthday of the release of Microsoft's Kinect, we will take a brief tour of the experimental technology that preceded it. But before we begin, it is worth noting a few facts about the Kinect we know today, a piece of technology that almost overnight changed the development of contemporary interactive art by being powerful and affordable. 'Project Natal', as it was originally known, initially used a system called "Time-of-flight" which had origins military laser radar systems, but changed when a start-up called Primesense, an Israeli company made of ex-military engineers, were trying to sell their consumer-focused product:
the PrimeSense technology uses a proprietary technology called “light coding,” rather than the time-of-flight cameras used by of its competitors. Time-of-flight emits strong pulses of light and measures the delay in their return to calculate positions.
“Time-of-flight came from laser radar systems with military applications,” said Aviad and Inon. “[But] the DNA of the PrimeSense technology was from day one for the consumer market.
“There are a lot of differences between PrimeSense and time-of-flight cameras in general. PrimeSense has achieved a breakthrough on price and performance. The performance we generated through the device is better in a long list of parameters [than time-of-flight].”
“It was the most natural place for the technology,” [Inon Beracha, CEO of PrimeSense] said.
Apple has a history of interface innovation, of course, and had recently introduced the iPhone with its paradigm-shifting multitouch UI. PrimeSense’s system went one step further: It was multitouch that you didn’t even have to touch. Apple seemed like a natural fit.
Yet the initial meetings hadn ...