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Intel acquiring gesture recognition start-up InVision Biometrics

News broke this morning (here, here) that Intel is about to acquire Israeli start-up company InVision Biometrics.  The company has developed 3D sensor technology that recognizes human movement, including gestures, and interprets them for a wide variety of applications.
The company's technology is based on, and apparently builds on, research by Professor Ron Kimmel at the Technion Institute of Technology.  Professor Kimmel has a number of patents in this and other areas, some owned by the Technion and some licensed to companies.

For Israel, dubbed the Start-Up Nation, this acquisition continues a number of trends.  It's Intel's second acquisition of an Israeli start-up company in October alone, having acquired Telmap at the beginning of the month.  Both acquisitions are interesting in that they move Intel into new areas that have been previously handled by software.  Grizzly Analytics predicts that Intel will acquire more start-ups in software areas that they can move to hardware.

Other chip companies are moving in the same direction.  QualComm also recently acquired a gesture recognition start-up company, GestureTek, in July 2011.  Another QualComm acquisition in a software area is their acquisition of Israel-based iSkoot, whose products included mobile Skype and mobile feature-phone (non-smartphone) applications, in October 2010.

It's also Israel's second big success in gesture recognition, following Microsoft's using technology from PrimeSense in its Kinect 3D-gaming system (PrimeSense was not acquired, and is continuing to develop additional technology).  Does Israel have some sort of secret sauce for gesture recognition? That may make other Israeli gesture-recognition companies, such as XTR (Extreme Reality)eyeSight, Omek Interactive, and others, very attractive for upcoming M&A. 

InVision Biometrics makes a lot of sense for Intel.  It's "coded light 3D sensor" is a MEMS-based hardware solution.  PrimeSense's technology is also hardware-based, in the form of a CMOS system-on-a-chip.  EyeSight's technology, on the other hand, is pure software, ideal for mobile devices (standard cameras and low-power CPUs).  XTR's technology is similarly software-only, designed for a computer with a WebCam.  Omek's technology, on the other hand, requires a third-party 3D camera for depth data.

Other gesture recognition start-ups include California-based SoftKinetic, France and Japan based LM3Labs and Barcelona-based AITech.  SoftKinetic's solution includes both CMOS hardware and software middleware.  LM3Labs technology, like Omek Interactive, is middleware based on other 3D cameras.  Correction: LM3Labs contacted me with the information that they produce both their own sensor and also middleware that can run with other company's sensors.

So if you're racing with Intel and QualComm, take a look at PrimeSense, SoftKinetic or LM3Labs. For software on phones or other devices, check out EyeSight or XTR.  For higher-powered devices, check Omek or LM3Labs.

The $64,000 question, of course, is what Intel and others will DO with gesture recognition and the other technologies they're acquiring.  Will they be integrated into next-generation CPUs? Offered as dedicated hardware solutions? Or something else altogether?

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