Canesta, a small chip maker based in Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley, has signed a letter of intent to be acquired by Microsoft. The deal was first reported by the New York Times.This looks like a patent acquisition to make sure that Microsoft’s Kinect is in the clear before it launches next Thursday.
Canesta owns 44 patents–and has filed for more–in what it calls “electronic perception technology.” The company has designed chipsets that, when combined with a camera and Canesta software, allow devices to perceive their surroundings in 3D. Among other applications, Canesta has said that its technology could be used for motion-controlled gaming–a scenario very similar to Kinect. Microsoft got some of the technology for Kinect from a Canesta competitor, PrimeSense.
Canesta has demonstrated its technology at several events like the SXSW music and interactive technology festival, but its technology isn’t in the market, and Canesta’s home page mainly serves as an advertisement for its patents. My guess is that Canesta approached Microsoft with a patent claim and, rather than litigating, Microsoft settled. But it’s always possible that Canesta has some revolutionary technology that Microsoft couldn’t develop as quickly on its own, so decided to buy the company.
The startup has raised $60 million from investors, including Venrock, Honda Motors, and the Carlyle Group. Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.