Xbox 360's 3DV motion tech explained

3DV's ZCam - is this what the new Xbox 360 motion-cam is going to look like?
3DV's ZCam - is this what the new Xbox 360 motion-cam is going to look like?

It is looking increasingly likely that Microsoft is gearing up for the big unveil of its new 3D motion-sensing camera controller for the Xbox 360 at E3 2009, so it is time to have a little look at the technology behind the E3 rumours and hype.

Firstly, while we have to stress that nothing has been officially confirmed by Microsoft, the rumours that the new Xbox 360 3D motion-cam is to be unveiled at gaming expo E3 have been fuelled this week by reports in the Wall Street Journal.

What has been confirmed is that Microsoft finalised the buy-out of Israeli 3D motion-sensing camera technology specialists in April of this year. And that the Redmond-based tech giant will be developing 3DV Systems' image sensing tech in the US – according to reports from the Israeli press.

3DV camera tech explained

But what exactly is this so-called 'Wii killer' motion-sensing technology that 3DV has been developing? And how does it work?

The technology is outlined in a little more detail on 3DV's own website, which notes describes it as follows: "3DV Systems' image sensing technology generates distance (depth) information for each pixel or object captured by the camera, as well as color video.

"The technology is based on the Time-Of-Flight (TOF) principle. The Depth information is captured by emitting pulses of infra-red light to all objects in the scene and sensing the reflected light from the surface of each object.

"All objects in the scene are then arranged in layers according to the distance information sensed by the D pixels in the camera, providing the Depth information in real time as standard black and white video where the grey-level correlates to relative distance.

"Color data is provided using a normal color imaging sensor."

Superior depth imaging

The company adds that "3DV's technology performs superior depth imaging (depth resolution of millimeters) in real-time (60 fps or more), using little or no CPU."

The website also details the Product Evolution of 3DV's 3D video cameras, with the company having "developed 4 generations of depth cameras."

It continues: "In recent years 3DV has been developing DeepC, a chipset that embodies the company's core depth sensing technology. This chipset can be fitted to work in any camera for any application, so that partners (e.g. OEMs) can use their own know-how, market reach and supply chain in the design and manufacturing of the overall camera capabilities. The chipset will be available for sale soon."

ZCam becoming XCam?

Specifically, all the Xbox 360 rumours point towards the likelihood that the Xbox motion-sensing camera will look very much like 3DV's "new ZCam (previously Z-Sense), 3DV's most recently completed prototype camera… based on DeepC and…the company's smallest and most cost-effective 3D camera.

"At the size of a standard webcam and at affordable cost, it provides very accurate depth information at high speed (60 frames per second) and high depth resolution (1-2 cm). At the same time, it provides synchronized and synthesized quality color (RGB) video (at 1.3 M-Pixel)."

The Z-Cam is currently publicised on the site as being ideal for PC-based gaming and for background replacement in web-conferencing.

Stay tuned for more on 3DV and Microsoft's new gaming tech as well as all the E3 news, rumours and comment that's fit to publish over the coming days and weeks.

Adam Hartley