Let's be clear: Microsoft's 3-D motion-sensing, depth-sensing, gesture-aware camera system Kinect is a breakthrough in gaming control. But the actual clever stuff inside Kinect is made by a company called PrimeSense, and this company has just said it's got a wholly new sensor that's better, and yet small enough to fit inside a smartphone. This means it has the potential to be a breakthrough in controlling anything.
The new system is called Capri, and though it's due for an official unveiling at the CES event in January, PrimeSense has revealed that it's about ten times smaller than the current generation of 3-D sensors, and the company suggests it's "certainly the smallest 3D sensor in the world." Along with the size reduction, Capri brings better algorithms and a lower cost. That means PrimeSense imagines it will be the sort of addition that would go into PCs, tablets, laptops, mobile phones, TVs, consumer robotics, and so on.
The implications of this are potentially huge, because we know developers are only just coming to grips with how clever they can be using Kinect as a PC peripheral. And the general public is fast becoming educated about the joys of gesture control on their iOS and Android devices. If PrimeSense's tech really does get built into smartphones and TVs it could enable all sorts of amazing hands-free control of many more of your devices. And it could also bring new ideas, like easy 3-D scanning of objects to complement the explosion of 3-D printing.
Considering that voice control may really explode into more popular use in 2013, thanks to Apple polishing Siri, the implementation of Siri control in cars, and Google's own efforts to make Android a voice-controlled platform, next year may be the first time we stop having to touch our devices altogether to control them.