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3D gesture recognition sheds "child's play" image

Posted: 24 Jan 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3D gesture recognition? MEMS sensor? smartphone interfaces?

The time is ripe for 3D gesture recognition to be seen as more than just a toy for young girls and boys. A few years after debuting in the consumer market as a wireless gaming interface for Nintendo's Wii, MEMS sensor-based gesture recognition is shedding its child's play image, finding its way into smartphones, and soon, into the most popular consumer interface: the TV remote.

Since the Wii's 2006 release, Nintendo's competitors have spun their own versions of 3D gesture recognition and processing. Sony tuned the Move Playstation controller for hard-core gamers seeking pinpoint accuracy; Microsoft took the gaming interface hands-free with the Xbox Kinect.

Apple was the first to pick up on MEMS sensors' potential for building more intuitive smartphone interfaces; it added MEMS accelerometers to the iPhone in 2007 and a MEMS gyroscope in 2010. Its competitors have followed suit, and soon 3D commands such as shake-to-undo, lift-to-answer and face-down-to-disconnect will be standard smartphone fare.

Today, consumer OEMs are adding 3D gesture recognition across their product lines. Some are using camera-based techniques licensed from GestureTek Inc.; others have licensed MEMS approaches from Hillcrest Laboratories Inc. or Movea Inc. Movea holds more than 250 related patents, covering such techniques as the use of a gyroscope to control cursors; Hillcrest holds more than 100, including a patent on the use of an accelerometer with a gyroscope for tracking motion. Both companies also offer value-added software development tools for 3D gesture designers (Movea's Gesture Builder and Hillcrest's Freespace MotionStudio).

Google, for its part, has added MEMS-based gesture recognition APIs to the Gingerbread release of the Android OS, which recognizes such gestures as tilt, spin, thrust and slice.

"Motion processing has finally been accepted by the mainstream," said Steve Nasiri, founder of InvenSense Inc., the first MEMS chipmaker to combine an accelerometer and gyroscope on one die. "We predict that the hardware for motion processing and gesture recognition will become as ubiquitous in smartphones as the camera module."

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