Omek Interactive Brings Kinect-Style Gameplay to PCs

January 8, 2011

By John Gaudiosi

LAS VEGAS – While 3D TVs, super phones and tablet devices have been stealing the headlines at CES 2011, there are more companies, including start-ups like Omek Interactive – that are bringing gesture-based controls to the PC gaming space. Omek has created a gesture-based engine that is available to license for anything from video games to digital signage.

“Omek is the leading independent provider of technology that enables motion tracking and gesture control for PCs and embedded systems across a wide range of applications,” said Jonathan Epstein, president of Omek Interactive. “This includes gaming, device control, media center control, and interesting physical fitness and physical therapy application that benefit from knowing the position of the user in relation to a type of camera.”

Epstein explained that what Omek does is very similar to what Kinect does with the exception that Omek’s software layer is hardware independent. Kinect is based around a specific camera. There are now actually six cameras you can buy that do depth perception of human beings in different ways, and each produces different data streams.

“The Omek engine allows people making hardware devices to have a software layer so that they can evolve their platform and use whatever camera’s the best at any given time without having to redo their whole operating system,” said Epstein. “On the other end, for applications developers, games, or advertising developers, they can build their applications using our middleware layer, and it will run on any camera, so rather than having to code six times it can code once.”

In PC gaming terms, the Omek engine is like DirectX for motion tracking. Motion tracking is part of what we the engine does. The other key element is that the technology provides gesture recognition and control, giving developers a very simple, codeless way to learn gestures.

“If you’re trying to create a game where taking three hops to the right means something, using our system, the software can learn that gesture and you never actually have to write code, which is very different from how the other systems work,” explained Epstein. “Our software runs on a variety of chips, it runs on PCs, and we’re talking to companies like NVIDIA, as well.”

While this technology will be making its way to the U.S., early companies focusing on games are based in Asia. Eedo, which is a Beijing spin-off of Lenovo, is building a set top box with gesture control motion tracking for the Chinese market. With PC games dominating over there, Microsoft and Sony don’t have large install bases in China. Asus is also working on a device that uses Omek. Epstein said that overall there are about 20 different consumer electronic manufacturers working on set top boxes that make use of Omek technology and cameras.

“I believe we’ll see more PCs in the US take advantage of our software through applications on media center PCs,” said Epstein. “Not everyone has a console device and not everyone’s a gamer, so the applications for this go way beyond gaming. Not to say that this won’t be used for PC games. But ultimately you’ll see 3D depth-aware cameras running your home, where you could turn up the lights with gestures. Even those devices will need software that helps interpret the movements of human beings, which is something we provide.”