The ZCam, from 3DV Systems, is featuring in several recent movie demos on the YouTube. It is a camera with onboard technology (it emits infrared pulses and catches refections) that not only provides RGB values for a matrix of pixels, but also a Z-score, i.e. the depth of that pixel. It is reported to be quite accurate. It is also reported to become cheaper, and therefore more widely available to, for example, game developers.
The ZCam, small but deep?
So far, there are demos shown of a squash game, a boxing game, and a flight simulator. But the website from the company has a more extensive video gallery.
Here is a nice review on Gizmodo, where they always keep an eye out for interesting gadgets like this. Crowd response has been positive so far but it remains to be seen whether this technology will be adopted in the market. It is at the moment a bit hard to say how well the technology works, what sort of drawbacks there are, etc.
But if it does work well than I think it has less disadvantages than stereo-cameras. I have some experience with a stereo-camera (two synchronized cameras with a software algorithm to integrate their output and obtain depth). This is expensive, costs processing power, costs time to configure, is unreliable (it should not be moved or even touched after configuration), and it relies on skin color segmentation to track faces and hands.
But what about the ZCam, what are users required to do or not to do, that is the question.