Early this morning, Sony announced the acquisition of SoftKinetic, a Belgian company working on depth-sensing cameras that can track motion in three dimensions using "time of flight" light field technology.
SoftKinetic's patented system works similarly to Microsoft's own Kinect sensors, sending out a field of "distance measurement pixels" using an infrared laser, then measuring how long it takes each of those light beams to travel back to the sensor camera. The result, in current products, is a 3D view of a room at up to 60fps, with resolutions as fine as one centimeter at a one meter distance, according to the company's website.
The move has obvious implications for Sony's plans in the virtual reality space, which include the launch of PlayStation VR early next year. Sony's PlayStation VR prototypes currently require players to hold PlayStation Move wands, which have glowing balls that are tracked by a camera placed by the TV. SoftKinetic's technology could allow for natural hand-tracking without the need to constantly grip a controller.
SoftKinetic's technology could also be useful for augmented reality products, like Sony's own SED-E1 smart glasses. Microsoft already uses a modified Kinect sensor in its Hololens augmented reality headset, tracking users' hands positions and gesture to let them reach into and interact with the virtual 3D scene in front of them.
Sony didn't announce a price for the SoftKinetic acquisition, but it said the move would not impact its financial results in this fiscal year.