While the Nintendo Wii has garnered attention from consumers and media alike for its innovative motion-based controls, Linden Lab is experimenting with a new way to interact with its Second Life virtual world with nothing more than a Webcam. Codenamed Segalen, the technology makes use of 3D Webcams, such as the ones from 3DVsystems, to track user's body gestures to let them navigate and edit within the environment.
In a YouTube video (embedded below), Second Life creator Mitch Kapor and Kapor Enterprises Inc. employee Philippe Bossut demonstrate the basics of moving around the 3D virtual world without the use of a keyboard or mouse--the traditional interface for most games. They mention that they took some cues from the way people use the Segway personal transport device to map out people's gestures and posture into a 3D world. The technology can also track facial gestures and match them onscreen in real time.
On Bossut's blog he notes that the project has only been in "real" development for a little more than three weeks. Second Life users looking to get their hands on it will have to wait, however, the 3D cameras in use for the project are still not readily available to consumers.
Similar efforts to use Webcams for gaming include the XBOX 360 and its Live Vision camera as well as the Playstation's EyeToy series, although neither had the 3D hardware capability that will give Kapor's Handsfree 3D its extra dimension of spacial control.