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Sony Acquires SoftKinetic, Which Can Track Hands for Virtual Reality

It's sort of like having a baby-sized Kinect mounted on your face.


Sony has acquired SoftKinetic, a computer vision startup specializing in depth-sensing cameras that can track things like what gestures your hands are making, for an undisclosed amount.

That’s a neat fit for Sony, which is working on both augmented reality smart glasses and a virtual reality headset, PlayStation VR, the latter of which is set to debut by the middle of next year. In prior meetings with Re/code, SoftKinetic has demonstrated how its patented sensing tech — which it had previously licensed out to companies like Sony and Intel — could be deployed in a camera mounted on AR and VR hardware to add hand-tracking input.

The company’s cameras are what’s known as “time of flight,” which means they work by shining a diffused laser out into the world and measuring how long it takes that laser to bounce back, similar to the motion camera Kinect that connects to Microsoft’s Xbox. What that means in consumer terms is that a person would be able to see and use his or her hands to grip, manipulate or otherwise interact with virtual objects while wearing a headset that might otherwise make them impossible to see.

SoftKinetic had also produced a proof-of-concept demo showing how its camera might be mounted in a car’s dashboard, with the driver making gestures to change the volume, get directions or make phone calls.

Sony does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its financial results in this fiscal year, the company said in a press release.

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