Four years after being featured during an Apple keynote, Nex is looking to take motion games mainstream: The Bay Area-based startup is getting ready to unveil a number of games that use computer vision to let people control gameplay with their bodies at the Tokyo Game Show later this month. Think Kinect-like play, but with smartphones, iPads and laptop cameras.
Nex also plans to bring those games to smart TVs and streaming devices, and will show its own reference design hardware at IBC in Amsterdam this month. The goal of those efforts is to “transform the living room into a playground,” Nex co-founder and CEO David Lee told me during an exclusive conversation last week.
Nex soft-launched two more games in recent months, and it’s now getting ready to unveil additional titles in Tokyo. Lee demonstrated a few of them to me on a Zoom call — and even though I didn’t compete against him in person, I got the sense that these types of games can be a lot of fun.
Nex’s next big bet is the TV screen. The startup wants to help operators, TV-makers and others bring its games to the biggest screen in the house.
Lee also hinted at the possibility that Nex could sell its own hardware by comparing its reference design kit to Google’s Pixel phones, which are both a North Star for the Android hardware industry and an actual product. However, he acknowledged that the startup would never be able to compete with consumer electronics giants like Samsung, and painted the reference hardware more as a way to drive adoption of the technology.
“It’s the chicken-egg problem,” Lee said. On the one hand, people will want to play motion games on TV together, as opposed to crowding around a phone screen. On the other hand, TV-makers won’t support motion games, and the cameras and chips needed to run them, if there’s not enough to play. That’s why Nex is looking to push both hardware and software development simultaneously.
The good news: The tech is ready. When Nex started, its computer vision model alone was 500MB, and it only ran on top-of-the-line phones. Now, that technology is much more broadly available, and chips capable of running motion games could show up in smart TVs within the next two years. “We see the tipping point coming pretty soon,” Lee said.