Gesture control moves into the consumer arena

Paul Boughton

Controlling equipment using gestures is becoming a key area of focus for chip and sensor makers.

Chip maker Texas Instruments is working with SoftKinetic, a leading provider of end-to-end 3D sensor and gesture recognition middleware solutions, to grow adoption of gesture control in televisions (TVs), personal computers (PCs), and a wide variety of other consumer and industrial devices, while AMD has integrated gesture control software into its range of processors for 2013.

TI’s 3D time-of-flight (ToF) image sensor chipset, which integrates SoftKinetic’s DepthSense pixel technology and runs SoftKinetic’s iisu middleware for finger, hand and full-body tracking. The TI chipset is inside 3D cameras that control a laptop and a smart TV to access and navigate movies, games and other content with the wave of a hand alongside its OMPA5 processor.[Page Break]

“SoftKinetic has long believed that motion control and gesture recognition is the future of user interfaces and digital interactivity,” said Michel Tombroff, chief executive officer of SoftKinetic. “We are pleased to collaborate with TI to help bring this technology into the mass market, and look forward to having our technology impact the everyday lives of consumers.”

Current 3D gesture recognition solutions lack real-time tracking and suffer from poor sensitivity, which can cause sluggish performance. TI’s ToF chipset has a 3D sensor that uses SoftKinetic’s DepthSense pixel technology to overcome this problem to deliver high sensitivity and real-time motion tracking. This enables precise tracking of finger, hand and full-body gestures. TI plans to follow its initial products with a complete portfolio of solutions suitable for various applications and form factors.

“There are a plethora of applications that can benefit from the accuracy and resolution of this technology,” said Gaurang Shah, vice president of Audio and Imaging Products at TI. “Imagine an end equipment designer tilting, rotating, compressing and expanding a new product in 3D to inspect and evaluate it on their PC before committing to a hardware prototype. We believe our collaboration with SoftKinetic will ignite more applications like this, and foster further technology innovation to simplify the way we interact with machines.”[Page Break]

At the same time AMD has integrated gesture tracking software into its latest desktop and laptop processors. It is working with Israeli startup eyesight on the upcoming 32nm Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) platforms, “Richland” and “Temash”; intended primarily for desktop, laptop and tablet PCs. With eyeSight’s gesture recognition closely optimized and integrated into the APUs, the web cameras in business and consumer equipment are able to process gestures with optimal speed, accuracy and efficiency.

The key is that these processors include a large number of graphics processing units (GPUs) that can be used for other tasks as well. By running the video processing algorithms on the GPU elements, eyeSight was able to reach remarkably low CPU consumption compared to running on traditional X86 CPUs. In some cases, the processing time has even been reduced by a factor of 20x- allowing eyesight to introduce additional code and significantly increase recognition accuracy.

“Working with AMD to bring gesture control to their 2013 APUs in this way is really significant. It validates growing consumer demand, and identifies gesture recognition as essential for digital devices,” said Gideon Shmuel, CEO, eyeSight. “And pre-integration makes perfect sense: the “Richland” and “Temash” APUs carry out gesture operations that are usually more CPU-intensive with an extremely low impact on the processing load of the system, making for a smooth overall experience. AMD’s solution will clearly be a very attractive option for any OEM looking to build a PC, laptop or tablet with gesture control functionality.”

eyeSight’s technology enables touch-free control of a wide variety of functions, including the Windows 8 modern UI , PowerPoint, Windows Media Player, Windows photo gallery, eBooks, PDF readers, and more.

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Fig. 1 The TI and SoftKinetic gesture control chipset