Microsoft's Hopes Lay in Israel

Published: June 11th 2010
in News » World

Project Natal in action.

On Monday, June 14, the biggest event in gaming will commence. The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is an annual event held at the LA Convention Center and is used by its exhibitors to showcase their latest videogaming technology; from games, to systems to peripherals.


While all the usual heavy hitters will be there, such as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, one of the lesser known companies that has the biggest significance at the show is Israel’s PrimeSense.  In 2009, Microsoft announced their newest addition to their Xbox 360 gaming platform, Project Natal, a camera with 3D sensing technology that is a remarkable piece of technology developed by PrimeSense and several other Israeli technology companies.  Project Natal was created to help Microsoft compete with Nintendo’s incredibly successful Wii system, which captured the hearts and wallets of gamers and non-gamers everywhere. 


Spec-wise, the Wii is a simple system compared to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3.  However, unlike Microsoft and Sony’s offers, the Wii was a revolution in gaming.  Using the Wii controller, players are able to control the character on screen by gestures and waving of their hands.  This made for very simple, but enjoyable gaming and quickly made the Wii the fastest selling next generation gaming system.


The success of the Wii made both Microsoft and Sony start to look for similar solutions for their systems.  At around the same time last year, Sony and Microsoft unveiled their offerings.  Sony’s technology is called the Wand, and much like the name, the technology is underwhelming.  Microsoft’s answer, however, is anything but.  Using PrimeSense’s 3D interactive system, players can control the on-screen action without having to use a physical controller, only their bodies.  The camera which is plugged into the Xbox 360, captures all the actions of the person ‘live’ and converts them to actions on screen in real time.  It’s an amazing sensation to see your avatar mimic your exact movements with no lag.  Jump and your avatar jumps, swing your arms and it does the same.  It can also capture multiple people at once and even translates your body shape to your avatar.


Project Natal is Microsoft’s focus at this year’s E3.  They have a big event planned pre-E3 on Sunday evening and will be showcasing the peripheral and game demos throughout the event.  If this event goes as expected, Tel Aviv-based PrimeSense stands to benefit tremendously.  Founded in 2005 by Aviad Maizels, Alexander Shpunt, Ophir Sharon, Tamir Berliner and Dima Rais, PrimeSense has become a leader in the area of high-performance 3D sensory inputs for the high-volume consumer market.  After several rounds of funding, including a $20 million investment from Canaan Partners, PrimeSense is set to become profitable in the near future.  However, being profitable and being a massive success in a $50 billion a year industry are different, and PrimeSense stands to become the next great Israeli success story.


Below is Microsoft’s video announcement for Project Natal at the E3 2009:


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