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Quanta takes stake in gesture control maker

The world's largest laptop manufacturer invests in Canesta's 3D camera on a chip.

While Panasonic, Sony, and other heavy hitters in the consumer electronics world are working hard to bring 3D to TVs, a far less recognizable name is working to bring 3D to computer interfaces.

You might never have heard of Canesta--and that's OK--but the largest contract manufacturer of notebook PCs, Quanta Computer, has. On Wednesday, Canesta will announce that it's raised another $16 million in funding, from new investors Quanta, chipmaker SMSC, and returning backers Carlyle Growth Partners, Hotung Venture Group, and Venrock. The new round of capital brings Canesta's total raised since 2001 to $70 million.

Quanta makes computers for Acer, Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and more. Although the two companies have nothing to announce right now, getting Quanta invested in Canesta's future could actually make the company's tiny 3D camera on a chip something standard in laptops someday.

Rather than displaying 3D images, Canesta's camera picks up 3D images, such as a person sitting in front of a laptop or TV, and enable him or her to use facial expressions or hand gestures to control the device. That can mean changing channels, scrolling through photos, or interacting in a game like Second Life.

So far, Canesta has made headway in TVs, earlier this year signing up Hitachi for its gesture-based input to be used in TVs scheduled to arrive in 2010.

There are several companies looking to bring this kind of technology into the mainstream, like GestureTek. The most high-profile use right now is Microsoft's Project Natal for the Xbox. Sony has previously used GestureTek's technology in the EyeToy accessory for the PlayStation.

Here's video of Canesta's gesture-controls in action: