5:35 PM -- Prime Sense, a maker of semiconductors for a new class of "3D-sensing" cameras and other consumer devices, won the Innovation Showcase at the CableLabs Summer Conference, taking place this week in Keystone, Colo.
Prime Sense, an Israel-based company founded in 2005 that raised $20.4 million in "B" round funding last May, showed off a 3D camera that can hook into a cable set-top or any other display with a USB interface.
The camera, powered by Prime Sense's chip, projects an infrared (IR) field into the room to help determine what's in front of the camera, going as far as identifying which "users" are sitting in front of the TV, based on their thermal images. [Ed note: The NewTeeVee blog picked up on this kind of technology (and the privacy questions it might raise, reporting that Comcast Corp. was one of the MSOs giving it a look) last year.]
The company thinks this kind of capability would fit in well with social-networking apps that run through a cable set-top. Cable, meanwhile, has shown a keen interest in 3D technologies. The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) recently kicked off a "3D over Cable" project to determine if the industry needs to create 3D standards. (See SCTE Looks at 3DTV .)
But cable's interest in Prime Sense might also extend to its "virtual touch" system, which "projects" a keyboard or another interface near the user, allowing him or her to navigate video program guides or move content around using hand gestures instead of pressing buttons on a remote control.
Prime Sense, however, is in the hardware business, hoping to get its technology built into a wide range of set-tops and gaming consoles. It's in the process of working with third-party developers to create apps for its 3D-sensing technology, according to Suneil Mishra, Prime Sense's VP of sales and marketing for the U.S., who discussed the technology during a conference call earlier today. He says Prime Sense is ready to start mass production, with some undisclosed customers already in the pipeline.
Prime Sense beat out 10 others that participated in the cable innovation contest. Using a "lightening round" format, each had nine minutes to present and demonstrate their technology or application. An "informal poll" of CableLabs members determined the winner.
The last time Cablelabs went through this exercise, Silicon Image Inc. came out on top for a lightweight "micro-client" architecture that, as a complement to tru2way, lets cable ops distribute video apps (including guides and navigation interfaces) to multiple TVs hanging off a home network. (See Improving Its Cable 'Image' .)
Before that, Ruckus Wireless Inc. got the vote for its wireless video platform, though it appears that AT&T Inc. might beat cable in terms of adoption of Ruckus's technology. (See Ruckus Rules and AT&T's U-verse Gets Ready for Ruckus .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News