New Tech Adds Kinect-Like Function to iPhones
Extreme Reality's software transforms the built-in cameras in mobile devices like iPads into motion readers.
CREDIT: Melissa J. Perenson
Microsoft's Xbox Kinect and Nintendo's Wii were the first game systems to let you wave your arms and jump about in lieu of using a game controller. But those devices, and Microsoft's own Kinect for Windows, required a 3D camera ― and they're certainly not going to fit in your pocket.
Now, a company called Extreme Reality is bringing gesture recognition to built-in smartphone, tablet and laptop cameras. At this week's Game Developer's Conference (GDC), Extreme Reality debuted the first Apple iOS games that use the technology.
“Extreme Reality is about human body motion analysis,” said Asaf Barzilay, the company’s vice president of products. “We track the human body. We do it with software only; no dedicated hardware is necessary. We don't need infrared [cameras], no 3D camera, no multiple cameras, no sensors. All we need is a simple, VGA [low-resolution] webcam.” (Other companies, like Leap Motion, are aiming to install their own hardware into mobile devices — a dicier proposition.)
Practically any smartphone, tablet or laptop sold within the past couple of years will meet that spec. And that translates into a huge advantage: no extra wires or gadgets to attach. Programmers can integrate the Extreme Reality software right into their games. At GDC, the company showed the first enabled games playing on an iPad and average laptops using their built-in webcams. [See video.]
Extreme Reality's software algorithm detects a body shape — arms and legs, knees and elbows. It then creates a virtual skeleton for the body.
“For each and every joint, we provide XYZ coordinates [for height, width and depth], so we are building the model in 3D even though we are using a 2D camera,” Barzilay explained. “On top of this human, real-time skeleton, we can detect any body position, and any gestures or movements." [See also: Kinect Sensors Convert Your House Into a Video Game]
There are no iOS games with the new technology on the market quite yet, but Barzilay said they are expected to be available in the iTunes store later this year. Currently, the Windows version of Extreme Reality's technology has led to the development of PandaMania — a game that lets you control a dancing panda — which is available via the Windows Store. Additional games — including Vtree Entertainment's snowboarding game, ProRiders — are expected to be released later this spring.
Extreme Reality is also looking to put its technology into smart TVs.
Now, just one question: If seeing people staring into their cellphones all day annoys you, how will you feel about them jumping around?