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Deal Radar 2008: PrimeSense

Posted on Wednesday, Sep 17th 2008

Founded in 2005 by Aviad Maizels, Alexander Shpunt, Ophir Sharon, Tamir Berliner, and Dima Rais, PrimeSense specializes in 3D machine vision. The company has its headquarters and R&D in Israel and offices in California and Japan.

PrimeSense’s product, the Prime Sensor, allows computers to perceive the world in 3D. The Prime Sensor provides ‘sight’ to a computer so that it can understand the world around it. The device has a sensor—the ‘eyes’ of the computer—that sees the user and his surroundings, and a digital component—the device’s brain—that understands the user’s movement in these surroundings. The plug-and-play device can see and track the user’s movements without the need for wearable equipment or a change of environment. The device is platform independent. The company’s technology is inexpensive, accurate, and has several patents pending.

Nintendo’s Wii Balance Boards could soon be things of the past, as PrimeSense is turning its attention to releasing its technology in the market. The initial focus will be on the video game market, especially the major console makers, peripherals vendors, and video game publishers. The company aims to be the leading provider of 3D sensing and understanding technologies for high-volume markets.

The company also envisages the Prime Sensor making a breakthrough in consumer electronics, with gestures interacting with menus on a screen, making the keyboard and mouse redundant. The same goes for home training and fitness and video communications, where the TV will ‘sense’ movements and the virtual trainer will offer personalized sessions. Another area where PrimeSense believes its device can be useful is video communication that comes complete with virtual backgrounds and conference tools, like a virtual drawing board or a virtual screen with graphs and slides.

PrimeSense has raised $29.4 million so far. The company got its seed funding from Gemini Israel Funds and went on to raise a $9 million Series A from Gemini Israel Funds and Genesis Partners in August 2006 and a $20.4 million Series B from Canaan Venture Partners, Gemini Israel Funds and Genesis Partners in May 2008. While funds from the first round were used for development and R&D, funds from the second round will be used to concentrate on shifting the focus from development to sales.

The company had hoped to break even by 2010. However, it is said to be having issues with mounting expenses and was 10% ahead of its budget in July 2008. PrimeSense has already cut back on hiring and travel and has frozen wages. It also aims to outsource some R&D work to China and Eastern Europe. Given the high cost of doing business in Israel due to the meteoric rise of the shekel, this seems to be the only feasible option. Meanwhile, they need to watch their cash closely.

With PrimeSense, virtual reality could become an everyday reality. Just how successful a reality it will be is something worth watching. Gestures, with the launch of the iPhone, have become an important discipline for UI designers to contemplate. Can PrimeSense trigger a new generation of gestural behavior?

Related Readings:
*Funware and Social Games – All the World’s a Game
*PC Games – Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going
*Games For Good

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008


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