Microsoft buys chip company Canesta

The acquisition should further Microsoft's efforts to develop natural user interface technologies

Microsoft is acquiring Canesta, a company that has developed chips that allow natural user interactions with machines, furthering Microsoft's goal of creating more natural user interfaces.

Based in Sunnyvale, California, Canesta makes chips and software that let electronic devices respond to user movements. The concept sounds similar to that which Microsoft incorporated into Kinect, the Xbox add-on that will let users control games with their bodies.

Canesta did not disclose the terms of the deal. It expects the acquisition to close before the end of the year.

As part of the deal, Microsoft will get Canesta's products, technology, intellectual property, customer contracts and other resources, Canesta said.

Canesta has 44 patents and more pending, it said. The first application of its technology is a projection keyboard that can be used with mobile devices. Canesta licensed the technology to a company called Celluon, which plans to sell products embedded with the technology to device manufacturers.

According to the company's website, Hitachi and Honda are among Canesta's customers.

Canesta's president and CEO, James Spare, formerly served as business development director for Microsoft's TV platform group.

Microsoft has been promoting the idea of natural user interfaces for years, since before founder Bill Gates, who spoke of the concept often, stepped down from his leadership position at the company. Just two weeks ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer named natural user interface as one of the next big revolutions to come in technology. He said so in response to a question from a computer science student at the University of Washington during a talk there on Oct. 15.

While using a mouse to direct a PC once seemed natural, it doesn't seem so now, he said at the time. A more natural way to interact with machines would be to speak to them or gesture, like Kinect allows, he said.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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