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Microsoft Buys Motion-Sensing Firm Canesta

Last year we reported that Sunnyvale, California-based 3D chip maker Canesta was developing a "Project Natal Killer" technology for the PC and laptops. Canesta defined the tech as a family of tiny CMOS 3D "camera" chips that provide a real-time, 3D "depth map" of the surrounding area--essentially allowing cameras to "see" in 3D. These chips could not only be used in PCs and laptops, but in televisions, gaming consoles and even smartphones.

Friday Microsoft said that it will purchase Canesta for an undisclosed amount, with an expected acquisition by the end of 2010. As part of the deal, Microsoft will acquire Canesta's products, technology, intellectual property, customer contracts and other resources.

"This is very exciting news for the industry," said president and CEO Jim Spare. "There is little question that within the next decade we will see natural user interfaces become common for input across all devices. With Microsoft’s breadth of scope from enterprise to consumer products, market presence, and commitment to NUI, we are confident that our technology will see wide adoption across many applications that embody the full potential of the technology."

The acquisition may tie into rumors surrounding Windows 8 and the possible inclusion of facial recognition and gesture controlling. Currently Microsoft is on track to release its motion-sensing device for the Xbox 360 in mere days, allowing gamers to ditch the standard controller and interact with games using their bodies. However there's been talk for years that Microsoft wants to move away from the mouse and keyboard and integrate a more natural user interface (NUI) for the PC and notebooks.

Canesta's previous clients include Sony and its EyeToy for the PlayStation consoles, Honda, Hitachi and more.