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XTR_BOXING_jpegI know a guy who likes to cook. Or, rather, liked to cook (past tense). Until he got married, of course.

You see, his wife won’t let him near the kitchen. He’s a child of the 70′s – meaning that he’s ‘liberated’ in the Gloria Steinem sense – and has no problem doing all that kitchen stuff; he’s even willing to do the dishes. But that’s a no go at his hacienda; when he washes a dish, his wife complains that it isn’t clean enough, and she rewashes it!

Thanks to a new technology by Israeli startup XTR 3D, though, my friend may yet get his chance in the kitchen. If he can’t cook in the “real” kitchen, he may soon be able to earn a reputation as a chef on the small (computer) screen!

It’s all thanks to inexpensive, easy to implement, and readily accessible 3D Motion Capturing technology provided by Israeli startup XTR 3D – which has developed a system that lets the great cooks of the world, as well as anyone else ,th control what happens on their computer screen, just by using a regular webcam and XTR 3D’s amazing motion capture software interface! The software actually translates the real world 3d motion onto the game or application. It’s much more sophisticated than the current most popular virtualization syystem, Nintedo’s Wii, which is based on a 2D reading of the subject in front of its sensors.

Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Total Recall”, but without the dentist chair setup that transports him into a life and death virtual Martian adventure. With the XTR 3D interface, you can travel to Mars and interact with the little green wo/men, engage in virtual cooking, game playing, and do some world-saving – or even more mundane things like download and read your e-mail, without having to touch  a keyboard or a mouse!

Note that I said “just by using a webcam.” Until now, 3D virtualization of real world actions on a PC or video game screen has been possible – but only with the assistance of expensive hardware, like special trackers (Wii), 3D cameras, or multiple cameras forming different angles to capture a 3D image and human body motion capture in 3D and in real time.

In other words, 3D movement virtualization has been more or less off limits to the average home or business user, having been employed chiefly in the movie industry on motion capture stages (like in Lord of the Rings), special gaming hardware, or major medical facilities (where the technology is used for expensive and complicated medical procedures).

But now, even you and I can interact with any screen environment, if XTR 3D’s interface is set to work with it. The interface translates the 2D images uploaded by the webcam into the PC – and mathematically extrapolates the actions performed by the user  into 3D representations on the other side.

How do they do it? Well, says XTR 3D’s CTO Dor Givon, the software – known as the 3D Human-Machine Interface – “extrapolates depth and human body motion capture based on revolutionary computer vision algorithms.” And, as an interface, Givon says, the system is software based and platform independent – meaning that it can essentially be used in any program on any embedded platform.

So, what software developers would be interested in an interface like this? Game publishers are the first group that comes to mind, and that’s the space XTR 3D has chosen to begin marketing its product. “The gaming market has gone from an industry sideshow to the main component of computer entertainment, and is now a $25 billion  plus a year industry. Our technology will change the way people play games, and its potential for deployment on the many gaming platforms in the market is enormous,” says XTR 3D’s CEO, Michal Lodzki.

However, it would be a mistake to think that the interface would be limited to just gaming, says Givon. “There are so many applications that this could be used for,” he says, “including medical devices, security, and media. Imagine changing the channel on your TV without having to pick up the remote control – by just moving your finger through the air, having your actions transported onto the screen with our interface, and ‘pushing’ the ‘button’ on a virtual remote control on the screen,” he says.

In fact, the company’s presentation at the prestigious Techcrunch40 ’07 shows the 3D Human-Machine Interface being used to control, of all things, a Google Earth screen, where Givon has “the world in the palm of his hand,” moving across the globe to and fro – just by waving his hand around the air, as he controls the on-screen motions of his computer’s mouse, as input into the PC by a simple webcam. In the old days, you could get burned at the stake as a witch for this kind of thing – that’s how “magical” the interface is!

XTR 3D has about 8 employees, Givon says, and is planning to expand in the near future. “We’re in serious talks with several gaming companies and other application manufacturers,” says Lodzki, with the company’s first alpha product set to be released in the coming weeks. But once the market gets a look at how the technology works – and its ability to replace expensive dedicated systems that until now were required to do what XTR 3D’s interface does with programming code – Givon and Lodzki expect “a lot of calls,” she said.

And Givon knows his stuff. This isn’t his first 3D oriented startup; his last venture resulted in the invention of a 3D camera that provides a full-immersion 3D virtualization experience – all 360 degrees worth. Acquired by Micoy), a U.S. company itself is a world leader in 3D virtualization, the camera was good enough to be declared the second best technology invented in 2005 by The National Association of Seed and Venture Funds.

The future is in the software, Givon says. “For the first time, 3D imaging is going to be available to the common computer user,” Givon says, and the possibilities are endless. Interacting with the virtual world could become as easy and as common as dealing with the “real” world.

Which means that my friend may get a chance to finally do some cooking – virtually, of course. And if he’s looking to do dishes, well, there’s a whole stack of them in my apartment on Second Life!

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