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Sony buys VUB spin-off SoftKinetic !

The Brussels company SoftKinetic, producer of 3D Sensors, has been sold to Sony. Their sensor was invented and developed at the ETRO lab from Vrije Universiteit Brussel with support from FWO, IWT and the Brussels Region.

Professor Hugo Thienpont, Vice Rector for Innovation and Valorisation of Vrije Universiteit Brussel: "In the future it is expected that this original VUB technology will become widespread."

SoftKinetic makes hardware and software that can detect and analyze movements in 3D. The technology is after all already in use at BMW and Facebook, the latter for its 3D glasses Oculus Rift. The hard and software of Softkinetic will undoubtedly become mainstream the coming years. The technology will not only be used in game consoles, but also in the automotive industry, such as self-driving cars and virtual reality applications.

With the purchase of Softkinetic, Sony makes the next step in the market for 3D Sensors. Therefore, the group was particularly interested in the so-called Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensor technology. This is a very accurate way to measure how long light travels the from an image sensor to the object and back. It measures the distance to an object and locates it in space. That way, you could control a game device with body movements, or a robot can orient itself in a complex environment.

In 2011, SoftKinetic originated from a merger with Optrima. Optrima was founded in 2009 after seven years of research and development at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Within the research department Electronics and Informatics (ETRO) and the Laboratory for Micro- & Photo Electronics (LAMI) electronic engineers, designers, and image specialists worked together on the project. The team designed 3D ToF sensors and cameras that were able to recognize movements.

Prof. Maarten Kuijk, who stood at the cradle of the technology, founded the original Optrima with four of his doctoral students : "With the purchase of Softkinetic, Sony secures its position as the number one in the world. As one of largest manufacturers of camera sensors in smart phones, game consoles and related equipment, Sony is doing a very wise move. Almost all applications for ordinary image sensors may benefit from additional 3D information, and not in the least the emerging new consumer products such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reaility, self-propelled vehicles, or the internet of things. We can be proud that the technology originated in the labs of the University of Brussels. "

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