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A technology that’s straight to the point

Imagine being able to control anything from a computer to the cooker, simply by pointing at it. 
Billed as the next generation of gesture recognition, the technology will be demonstrated for the first time at January’s International CES by its creators Point Grab.

This new  experience revolutionizes the way people will naturally interact with consumer electronic devices as well as home appliances,” said Haim Perski, CEO of Point Grab. “We are proud to unveil the next generation solutions in gesture recognition and work together with our partners to make it available on mass market devices for consumers around the world.”

 The Israeli company will actually be showcasing two technologies in January. The first, AirTouch, lets users control devices like computers, TVs, and tablets simply by pointing at things on their screens. AirTouch creates a space in front of a device where distance, depth and motion can be tracked and recognized. It means that an air swipe, using two hands to zoom, or even a thumbs-up motion can be recognized and understood.

PointSwitch lets users point at an appliance to turn it off or on. However, it can also respond to more subtle gestures than a finger point, meaning that a gesture could also dim the lights, raise or lower the temperature of the thermostat, or partially draw the blinds.

(The technology will enable users to operate computers and tablets simply by looking and pointing at them. Photo: AFP/PointGrab)
 An earlier iteration of AirTouch, demonstrated at last year’s CES, used a computer’s existing webcam to identify and respond to air gestures but at the moment it’s not clear if the new version also just uses a device’s built-in camera to measure depth of field and hand movements within it, or if other pieces of hardware are required. We’ll have to wait until CES 2014 to find out more details, if we can get an invitation, that is.

That’s because all demonstrations will be taking place behind closed doors, such is the secrecy around them.  Still, PointGrab has confirmed that the technologies will be appearing in devices in early 2014 and in the meantime has posted a selection of videos to YouTube to show them in action.

Gesture recognition is shaping up to be one of the hot tech topics of 2014. Leap Motion, whose Controller accessory offers a similar level of gesture control, this month revealed that the first tablets with the technology built-in will be coming to market in 2014.

Apple also confirmed in November that it had bought Prime Sense, another Israeli company that is a pioneer in gesture recognition technology. The company developed the first XBox Kinect and was working on a miniature version of its sensor technology for use in smartphones when it was acquired.

There is also growing speculation that Microsoft is planning to launch a version of its Surface Tablet with integrated gesture recognition technology in 2014.


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