Sunday, January 2, 2011

Pakistani-American Entrepreneur's Game-changing Vision

Walking into the local Fry's stores in Silicon Valley during Christmas shopping season, I was fascinated by the latest Xbox 360 demo complete with excited kids dancing in front of a big screen wth a 3D sensor mounted on top of it.

Upon closer examination, I learned that Microsoft Xbox 360 has acquired a few new game-changing tricks thanks to the use of the amazing 3D gensture recognition technology from Canesta, a company co-founded in 2002 by my Pakistani-American friend Nazim Kareemi in Silicon Valley. Cyrus Bamji, an Indian-American, and Abbas Rafii, an Iranian-American, are the other members of the Canesta founding team.

Just before Christmas 2010, Microsoft started shipping Kinect, a $150 add-on for its Xbox gaming consoles, which uses gesture recognition to allow people to play games with body motions instead of controllers. Players work through menus with hand gestures and then move to make their on-screen avatars run, jump, duck, swing and dance. In fact, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer liked the technology so much that he decided to buy Canesta. Canesta has already secured 44 patents in this area and has more pending.

Microsoft and its partners are now in a position to revolutionize natural user interfaces for personal computers, televisions, cars, cellphones, cameras and other devices with gesture recognition capability acquired through Canesta's purchase. Other uses of the technology include enhancing automobile safety by detecting obstacles and recognizing the size and body shape of a person in a seat and adjust the way an air bag inflates.

While Nazim stands out as a serial high-tech entrepreneur with PenWare (1992), Canesta (1999) and Mixamo (2009) to his credit, there are thousands of other entrepreneurs and high-tech professionals of Pakistani origin who have made significant contributions in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in North America and Europe. Hundreds of them gather each summer at OPEN Forum organized by the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) in Silicon Valley.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

OPEN Forum 2010

Pakistani-American in $500 Million NFL Deal

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Fighting Poverty Through Microfinance in Pakistan

Silicon Valley Summit of Pakistani Entrepreneurs

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Pakistan's Middle Class Growth in 1999-2009

Social Entrepreneurs Target India, Pakistan


Nazim said...


Thanks for the article.

By the way, one correction, the current version of Xbox 360 Kinect uses the technology from an Israeli company called Primesense. Microsoft is likely to use Canesta technology in the future versions of Kinect, since unlike the current technology, Canesta’s 3D sensing is based on a low cost CMOS sensor.


Riaz Haq said...



And thx for the correction.

Best of luck with Mixamo.

Riaz Haq said...

Tell me Mr riaz haq where is Nazim Kareemi?????????

Its nowhere in its official website.

Indian is listed as Dr. Cyrus Bamji, CTO abd Co-Founder

Iranian is listed as Abbas Rafii, EVP and Co-Founder

Rest of important post are with foreigners like James Spare, President and CEO, David Garret, CFO, James Spare, Chairman


James Spare, President and CEO

Dr. Cyrus Bamji, CTO abd Co-Founder

Abbas Rafii, EVP and Co-Founder

Pat O'Connor, VP, Engineering PSBU

Tim Droz, VP, Engineering ESBU

Lou Kordus, VP, Manufacturing Operations

David Garret, CFO

James Spare, Chairman

Allan Thygesen

Steve Goldberg

Meir Friedlander

Craig White

Aaron Benway

Ed Fries

Board of Directors | Canesta, Inc


Toshinori "Tosh" Arita, Principal, Honda Strategic Venturing

Dr. Forest Baskett, General Partner

Greg Reznick, Pivotal Ventures, LLC

Sebastian Thrun, Professor, Stanford University & Director, Stanford AI Lab

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Tell me Mr riaz haq where is Nazim Kareemi?????????
Its nowhere in its official website."

Here's Nazim's bio I found on Canesta website:

Nazim Kareemi
Mr. Kareemi co-founded Canesta in 1999 and was its CEO from inception to 2004, and Chairman of the Board until 2006. He has many years of experience in the high technology industry in engineering and management positions, and has been a successful entrepreneur, building and growing emerging technology companies with unique cultures. He has a SB in EE from MIT and an MSEE and Engineer's degrees from Stanford University.

Along with two co-founders, Mr. Kareemi assembled an outstanding team at Canesta and raised several rounds of VC funding. Canesta has developed breakthrough electronic perception technology, acquired a substantial number of patents to protect its intellectual property, and built innovative products used in automotive and security markets.

Prior to Canesta, he founded PenWare in 1992 and raised VC funding. He attracted and retained some of the best people in the industry to develop award-winning software. PenWare established itself as a leader in spreadsheets for mobile devices; its OEM customers included Sony, Motorola and Sharp. PenWare also acquired another company to successfully enter retail point of sale terminal market and became public in 1996. PenWare changed its name to Atpos and was later acquired by Symbol Technologies, Inc.

Nazim Kareemi is a serial entrepreneur par excellance!

Nazim founded PenWare in 1992 which created the pen pad found in almost all point-of-sale terminals for signing for credit card charges.

He then co-founded and led Canesta as chairman and CEO until 2004, and as chairman of the board till 2006.

He then started another company, a 3D character animation start-up called Mixamo where he is the chairman and ceo now.

Anonymous said...

sorry riaz i fail to see 'game changing' in this basically 2 CMOS sensors?(i.e digicams which record and transmit body movements)
big deal!

This on the other hand is more like it and completely designed in India by Indian company notion ink which owns all IP rights:

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "sorry riaz i fail to see 'game changing' in this basically 2 CMOS sensors?(i.e digicams which record and transmit body movements)
big deal!"

I don't think you understand what is involved in three dimensional sensor technology, and how revolutionary will be its impact.

Potential applications of Canesta'a is leading-edge stuff that were demonstrated last year at TED India by using gestures to take and browse photos using a 3D sensor. It recieved rave reviews.

Please read up on it before responding and-or commenting further.

Anonymous said...

Hello Riaz, sorry to bust your ego, why are you couting Canesta's achievement as that of Pakistanis when the company is a US based company. After all you don't give any credit to Indians in USA for the same.
Also are you reading NYT these days after Salman Taseer's assassination. Daily they are coming up with excellent article exposing complete failure of society and institutions.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "Also are you reading NYT these days after Salman Taseer's assassination. Daily they are coming up with excellent article exposing complete failure of society and institutions."

Let's see how they report on a liberal Congresswoman Gifford's attempted murder in Arizona.

After Congresswoman Gifford's attempted murder in heavily Republican Arizona, maybe liberals in America better start to worry?!

Safeway massacre: Congresswoman shot in head at point blank range and judge murdered as 18 are shot in Arizona gun rampage

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani-American mayor Omar Ahmad of San Carlos, CA died suddenly yesterday. It's really shocking news.

I met Omar recently in San Jose when he gave a very humorous but inspirational talk at a Human Development Foundation (HDF) fundraiser just last month to encourage young Muslims and Pakistani-Americans to make a difference through public service in America.

Here's an excerpt from Prof Adil Najam's post on his sudden sad demise.

I never met Omar Ahmed, but I remember first hearing of him when he famously responded to a question about whether his being a Muslim affected his position as Mayor of San Carlos City, California, that “there’s no Muslim way to fill in a pothole.” It was with great sadness that I learnt today that he had suddenly died of a heart attack at the young age of 46.

Omar Ahmad – born in Ohio to Pakistani parents and raised in Florida – was elected to the city counil in San Carlos in 2007 and became mayor in 2010. According to an interview published in Illume, he was “an experienced entrepreneur and community leader who founded several companies including SynCH Energy Corporation, TrustedID and Logictier. He was also in leadership positions at Grand Central Communications, Naptser, @Home Network, Netscape and Discovery Channel.”

A serial entrepreneur, an NBC story on his death reports that he “was a Silicon Valley techie before running for office and continued that work while in office. He moved to the Bay Area to work for @Home Networks and then Netscape. His city biography says he was the CEO of a new Silicon-Valley technology startup CynCH Energy Corporation, which is renewable energy company.”

May his soul rest in peace!

Riaz Haq said...

The Lahore-based and Five Rivers Technologies made it to the number one spot across all categories on BlackBerry’s AppWorld on August 3 with their game Ninja Fruit Bash, developed for BlackBerry smartphones, according to a report in Express Tribune:

This was the third BlackBerry app developed by the local company to make it to number one on BlackBerry AppWorld.

Their other apps to reach number one include Photo Editor, an app that allows users to edit photographs from their hand-held devices, and LED Notifier, an app that blinks different colored LED for different contacts.

Mahe Zehra Husain, the Head of Operations and Product Management said “We are thrilled at this achievement. We already have two world number one utilities on BlackBerry AppWorld and adding a game to our family shows that not only can good code be developed for software utilities in Pakistan we can actually make amazing games as well!”

Ninja Fruit Bash Storyline

Ninja Fruit Bash follows the quest of a Ninja as he travels across China slicing tainted and poisoned fruit in order to save humanity.

The fruit is poisoned by the evil spirit of Orochi and is fatal if eaten. Orochi has turned fertile fruit gardens all over China into poisonous wasteland and our Ninja is on a mission – to return all the fruit gardens to their former glory.

Here's more from

There’s a growing trend of taking iOS successes and porting them over to BlackBerry. We believe the trend was started by Smarter-Apps and from a strictly business perspective it makes a lot of sense. Sure, you could spend a long time working on a risky app that may or may not be a success, or you could take something that obviously makes money on another platform and bring it to the 40 million or so BlackBerry users. Considering the huge success of this strategy, as proved by Angry Farm, it makes you realize that a lot of these iOS developers are listening to the analysts more than the users.

Ninja Fruit Bash is the latest in this strategy and they’ve taken the success of Fruit Ninja to BlackBerry users. The app isn’t 100% of the fun you get on the iOS version and there are some limitations on the BlackBerry side such as the fact that not all devices have OpenGL support for 3D graphics. Ninja Fruit Bash on the Torch was a pretty smooth experience and it’s definitely a good start. The company will have to work a little harder to bring more of the user experience and graphics to the game but as a start it’s awesome.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr. Teepu Siddique, a Pakistani-American doctor and professor, has identified an ALS causing gene, according to a report in Science journal:

Research that has discovered a new gene whose mutations cause 5 percent of inherited cases of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is part of a national study led by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The study reported in Science today (Feb. 27) points to a common cellular deficiency in the fatal neurological disorder, said Teepu Siddique, MD, Les Turner ALS Foundation/Herbert C. Wenske Foundation Professor in the Davee Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurological Sciences and Department of Cell and Molecular Biology and director of the Division of Neuromuscular Medicine at the Feinberg School.

The new research is part of a national collaboration directed by Dr. Siddique, the principal investigator for the “Genetics of ALS” project funded at Feinberg by the National Institutes of Health.

Earlier research by Siddique and colleagues extended the genetic knowledge of familial (inherited) ALS by identifying the first and second ALS genes (the SOD1 gene in 1993 and the ALSIN gene in 2001), in addition to identifying loci on chromosomes 9, 15, 16, and X.

The study published today discovered aFUS/TLS gene mutations in ALS families collected through efforts of the NIH-funded multi-center project and included among others a large Italian family previously studied by Drs. Siddique and Cortelli.

ALS affects the motor neurons in the central nervous system. As motor neurons die, the brain’s ability to send signals to the body’s muscles is compromised. This leads to loss of voluntary muscle movement, paralysis, and eventually death from respiratory failure. The cause of most cases of ALS is not known.

“The purpose of this national study is to understand what triggers the death of motor neurons in order to find new cellular models of ALS, with the ultimate goal of advancing research that leads to a treatment for this fatal disease,” Dr. Siddique said. “Approximately 10 percent of ALS cases are inherited.”

“The discovery of this gene mutation shows new kinds of molecular defects that damage motor neurons and it implicates defective pathways previously identified in other genetic forms of ALS,” said Dr. Siddique.

The new findings were reported in Science by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of three institutions that collaborate with Dr. Siddique on the national study. Other authors from the consortium include M.A. Pericak-Vance (University of Miami) and Jonathan Haines (Vanderbilt University). Robert H. Brown Jr., MD, chair and professor of neurology at University of Massachusetts Medical School, was senior investigator of the study and lead author of the Science paper.

In addition to funding from the NIH, Siddique’s ALS research is supported by the Les Turner ALS Foundation, Vena E. Schaff ALS Research Fund, Harold Post Research Professorship, Herbert and Florence C. Wenske Foundation, Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust, The David C. Asselin MD Memorial Fund, Les Turner ALS Foundation/Herbert C. Wenske Foundation Professorship, Help America Foundation, and the ALS Therapy Alliance, Inc.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's Wonder Boys Reimagine Special #Education Get Global Innovation Award at #Stanford via @forbes #specialed

Taking home third prize at the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I Startup Competition held at Stanford University this year, WonderTree, a Pakistani start-up from Karachi, is on the road to aiding children with special needs by way of its thoroughly interactive augmented reality games.

For Muhammad Usman, the start-up’s co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, the birth of WonderTree swiftly took shape in 2015, when he saw his older brother (born with special needs) enjoying playing a game on his PlayStation. “It was then when all the dots connected and I realized what I wanted to do,” Usman stated.

Working closely with special education teachers, occupational therapists and psychologists, the start-up has currently developed four games that are best suited for children with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADHD, and other mental disabilities.

With just a kinect v2 sensor, a television and a laptop as the only hardware required to play the games, WonderTree’s technology assists in developing motor, cognitive and functional skills for children with learning disabilities. But that’s not all; the start-up’s games feature an in-built reporting system which helps the developers track and document each child’s performance.

“We’re working on ways of using this data to build AI (artificial intelligence) into our games,” Usman said, speaking of WonderTree’s upcoming plans, “So in the future; our games will be able to adjust the difficulty levels and other settings as per the child’s needs, progress and disability. This will make our games highly efficient. We’re really excited about this.”