December 10, 2007 4:00 AM PST
New game controller: Your hands
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But not everyone thinks 3DV is about to change the way things work in the video game industry.
That's in part due to the success of established systems like the Wii and its Wiimote, and the fact that developers like Microsoft and Sony are eagerly looking for ways to cut costs associated with their consoles, not add to them.
3DV's depth-sensing camera
ZCam aims to free gamers from traditional controllers.
"My reaction (to ZCam) is that it's probably not going to have a dramatic impact on the gaming market," said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner who had not been briefed on 3DV's technology, "because it's not like this technology hasn't been around in some form or another."
Baker added that he'd seen a form of camera technology four or five years ago that allowed players to augment their input for games such as volleyball, and that Sony's EyeToy offered similar capabilities.
He acknowledged that those systems worked in two dimensions, while ZCam's 3D technology is probably a big step forward.
"But I don't think it's going to be such a dramatic improvement that it's going to fundamentally change the game space," Baker said. "What console manufacturers would have to do to get the attention of (game) developers is to include it in every console unit...and that's unlikely (as) they're looking to cut costs."
But one well-known technologist may have a different view than Baker.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, in fact, has hinted that technology like that of 3DV could play a role in the company's future video game efforts.
Gates talked about the possibility of such controls, during a joint interview with Steve Jobs at this year's "D: All Things Digital" conference.
"Imagine a game machine where you're just going to pick up the bat and swing it, or the tennis racket and swing it," Gates said.
Moderators Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher mocked Gates, saying such a technology already exists and it's called the Wii. But Gates disagreed. "No, that's not it. You can't pick up your tennis racket."
He later added, "You can't sit there with your friends and do those natural things," he said. "That's a 3D positional device. This is video recognition. This is a camera seeing what's going on."
In an October interview with CNET News.com, Gates talked about a broadening role for such natural interfaces.
"People kind of gasp when they see how touch works on Surface, you know, when they touch their iPhone," he said. "'Oooo, wow,' you know, that's just such a natural thing."
He talked about them moving beyond computing devices and into other objects like tables and mirrors.
"Give us a 5- to 10-year time frame and we will wonder why our tables used to sit there and not do anything for us," Gates said.
CNET News.com reporter Ina Fried contributed to this report.
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