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3D Gesture Recognition Technology Could Change TV By Next Christmas

December 23, 2009

A new technological advance called 3D gesture recognition may not be in stores this Christmas, but a number of technology companies are promising that it will be by next year, AFP reported.

The technology allows users to change television channels or turn the volume up or down with just a movement of their hand. Videogamers can also control their onscreen digital avatar movements without a handheld controller.

This touchless vision of the future will soon be a reality as Softkinetic, a Brussels-based software company and one of the leaders in the gesture-control field, has teamed up with U.S. semiconductor giant Texas Instruments to have the technology ready for consumers by next year.

Softkinetic chief executive Michel Tombroff told AFP that on the consumer side there are three markets — television, videogames and personal computers.

“The objective is to be on the consumer market at the end of next year, by Christmas, so people can buy these things,” he said.

Tombroff said 3D camera technology would allow users to completely transform the way people interact with television in the same way that the Nintendo Wii completely changed the way that people play videogames.

“Gesture recognition technology is directionally correct because anything leading to a more natural interface for a human is better,” Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told AFP.

Kay said the industry is in a transition to a time when gestural input will be quite natural.

“From what I’ve seen of the demos they’re pretty close.”

He said gamers would soon be able to use a camera in real time to capture motion and then take the representative avatar from that and play it on a screen with other elements in a virtual world.

Microsoft demonstrated a gesture recognition program called “Project Natal” for its Xbox 360 videogame console in June and has announced plans to launch it next year.

Softkinetic’s gesture recognition solutions involve using a 3D camera that “looks like a little webcam” and is mounted on top of a television set or computer monitor, Tombroff said.

“It looks at the scene and it can analyze gestures without you holding anything in your hand or wearing any special equipment. It’s really the ultimate gesture-based solution,” he said.

Tombroff explained that with the Wii you need to hold something in your hand, but their technology uses the full body without the need to hold anything.

“You just stand up or just move your hand. We let you interact without any intermediate component,” he said.

The technology has the capability of transforming television, according to Tombroff.

He believes it will become an active component of the living room since it is not just about sitting in the living room, turning it on and watching.

“It’s about interacting. The TV will recognize you. If you step in front of it, the camera will recognize it’s you,” he explained.

“Maybe it will start with a quick recap of your email, the weather, and the traffic because it knows you need to go to the office,” he said.

He said after that it may propose interactive programs where instead of just sitting and watching TV you’ll be able to play games or enter into programs.

Tombroff said it would transform the way people experience television in the same way that the iPhone completely transformed the user experience of the phone.

Image Caption: Microsoft XBox Natal System

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