The genesis of language is in gestures. Communication has always included gestures and seldom do you realize their importance more than when you are in an alien city where the language is unknown to you. Universally accepted signs of hello and goodbye, indications of pain and discomfort, actions to convey hunger and thirst and mimes to put across actions like walking or sleeping are blessings in disguise and cannot be considered important enough.
Sometimes gestures are life savers in the literal sense.For instance, medical science is enthusiastically embracing the idea of using hand gestures to convey messages to computers or robots during surgery. It is believed that vision based gestures can be crucial in handling swift disaster responses too.
So it was only a matter of time before gesture recognition became part of our technology and our equipment. Probably the most familiar use of vision based gesture recognition is in the world of gaming. Here, cameras follow the gestures of the user and take them through stages in the game. For instance, Sony’s PlayStation Eye and the Microsoft Xbox Kinect have seen several modifications and continue to thrill gamers everywhere.The Eye, used in PlayStation 3 categorizespictures and thus enables players to use color and movement to make the gaming experience personalized. Users also have the voice option with surround sound and ambient noise for a more realistic experience, like hearing a chopper gunning for them as they run for shelter. PlayStation Move uses a wand and the Eye tracks those movements.
Kinect is also used in the Windows PCs and when used in the gaming console of the Xbox, it does away with the controller and allows the user to get on with the fame using speech and gestures. This makes it more accessible to people from different backgrounds and abilities.
We have also seen vision based gesture recognition in the Wii Remote with Wii MotionPlus. This allows players to use other devices like the Wheel and Zapper without separating platforms, giving them more mobility and control.
We have also seen this recognition technology in the notebooks introduced by Intel. Come to think of it, Snapdragon, a platform offered by Qualcomm uses the same technology too and is being touted as such.
But now, we’re talking of a new area of exploration; the world of smartphones. Everywhere you turn, the headlines proclaim astounding numbers- by 2017, it is expected that 600 million of these phones will have the vision-based gesture recognition feature(ABI Research).More than gaming consoles and PCs and tablets, it is the phone that is ubiquitous and it is believed that this technology gives people a new platform on which to interact.
The Koreans are in the lead here with Pantech introducing its Vega LTE last year. It uses the camera on the phone to track gestures and you need to just make gestures for music play or use a swiping pose to unlock your phone to take a call. Qualcomm, something of a veteran has offered us not only camera based tracking but a phone that also uses ultrasound and infra-red. We have the friendly-sounding Tobii that uses the eyes to control laptops and is considered revolutionary in understanding research into marketing and psychology among other things. All new generation smart TVs from giants LG, Lenovo and Samsung, come with gesture, voice and facial recognition. It is believed that Texas Instruments will also jump into the fray, soon.
It seems but natural to harness what comes naturally to humans and living beings, using touch and sound to drive our devices. In fact, this is especially necessary when we are not near our phones or are driving or working. The mind boggles at what this means for people who are differently abled and have communication issues of any kind, including strokes and spinal cord injuries. This means a whole new world of freedom and possibilities, in ways one cannot imagine, an improvement in the quality of life, manifold. This is not to say that there are no issues in the implementation of the technology.
Problems can be posed in the form of high levels of energy consumption, unfavorable conditions of too bright or two dull light and disparities in backgrounds. But it is believed that as technology improves, so too will these problems disappear.
There is no question that vision based gesture recognition is a truly revolutionary, helping concept. One hopes it arrives sooner, not later.
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