Last week, Microsoft announced its plans to acquire Perceptive Pixel. If you’ve been working in the AV industry, or are interested in new models of human-computer interaction, or simply have seen multi-touch interfaces on large-scale displays, then you are aware of Perceptive Pixel.  If you aren’t one of these people, Perceptive Pixel enables true multi-touch at large scale (as opposed to touch technologies that are restricted to small iPhone-like surfaces) and sells these awesome touch-and-pen-enabled displays.

First, congratulations Jeff!  Jeff Han founded Perceptive Pixel in 2006, and the company really gained recognition in late 2008, when CNN used their displays as large interactive U.S. maps for presidential election coverage. Jeff’s work in grad school at NYU led to the core of the technologies they were commercializing.  I’ve known Jeff for several years and stood in the back of a SIGGRAPH session focused on Emerging Display Technologies with him in 2007, about a year after we both founded our respective companies.  We were both excited about the renewed interest in updating the decades-old paradigm of mouse/keyboard/monitor in personal computing. Jeff’s company was hoping to transform the mouse into something more intuitive and simple, and Mersive was founded to finally achieve the resolution, brightness, and immersive realism of displays that simply cannot be achieved by a desktop monitor.  He and I swapped stories ranging from technology, patents, and productization challenges, to properly financing and hiring talent.  I am glad to see that Microsoft shares Jeff’s vision.

The ability to lower the cost of the Perceptive Pixel product and deliver this technology to a very broad customer base seems to be a goal in the Microsoft acquisition. The product is currently used primarily in sophisticated, high-end applications such as national laboratories, oil & gas companies, defense, media broadcast and higher education (they’ve been selling for about $80,000 for the larger displays, so they’re not exactly affordable at this point). Since Microsoft is adding Perceptive Pixel to the Microsoft Office Division, it makes me think the end product will be aimed at businesses rather than consumers, which makes sense.

But this announcement comes just months before the release of Windows 8, which is rumored to be ideal for tablet computers and multi-touch displays. If this is true, Microsoft will undoubtedly integrate Perceptive Pixel directly into its Windows 8 applications. It seems like Microsoft is really stepping up its game in the industry against rival/competitor and touchscreen giant, Apple.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but I have to believe that Perceptive Pixel made a pretty big chunk of change on the deal, considering they hold six touch-related patents.

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About Christopher Jaynes

Jaynes received his doctoral degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he worked on camera calibration and aerial image interpretation technologies now in use by the federal government. Jaynes received his BS degree with honors from the School of Computer Science at the University of Utah. In 2004, he founded Mersive and today serves as the company's Chief Technology Officer. Prior to Mersive, Jaynes founded the Metaverse Lab at the University of Kentucky, recognized as one of the leading laboratories for computer vision and interactive media and dedicated to research related to video surveillance, human-computer interaction, and display technologies.

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