Posted by chris caerts on August 31, 2011
Touch screens and the associated gesture control as introduced in smart phones and tablets have changed the way we interact with our devices. Tap-and-swipe touch-screens are fun and addictive to use, but touching tends to make the screen smudgy, and there are rising concerns on health and hygiene aspects. After all we want to be able to and do use our devices everywhere and anytime, right?
What we need is the ability to control the device with gestures, without actually needing to touch the display. Like in the 2002 Sci-Fi film Minority Report, where we got a glimpse of a distant future mind-blowing holographic wall that Tom Cruise used as an advanced computer interface by making sweeping gestures in the air using special gloves. Little did we know at that time that this distant future technology would arrive at our doorsteps – or even better, in our pockets – less than 10 years later.
Touch-less Gesture Control obviously is the next big thing. Industry leading companies like TI and Qualcomm make no secret of the fact that this is key strategic technology. TI has implemented gesture recognition as part of its “natural user interface” set of technologies in the OMAP 4 platform, and has partnered with XTR to develop a next generation touch-less gesture control technology. And, Qualcomm just announced the acquisition of the Sunnyvale based company GestureTek, which specializes in gesture recognition technology, for integration into its Snapdragon processors.
Today’s advanced 32-bit microprocessors already provide the processing power that is required to process the images captured by the front-facing cameras of today’s smart-phones. And they are so small that you can pack many of them on an SoC, so it’s all about the software. Little more than a week ago, Yonac Software released the first touch-less gesture controlled music application for iOS, named AirVox, which is available to you for a mere $2.99 USD from the iTunes store for the iPhone 4, iPad 2, and iPod Touch 4th Gen. And it is only a matter of time before this kind of app is available for Android as well.
If you think this is all play and no work, think again. This technology is finding its way from your pocket and living room to Hospital operating rooms. Some hospitals are applying the Xbox 360 Kinect technology for in-surgery image manipulation. Previously, doctors that needed to take a closer look at an image during surgery had to leave the sterile operating space to use the computer, then wash up again before going back in, which often requires up to 20 minutes of precious time. But now they can call up and manipulate complex images while they are in surgery without leaving the sterile environment and conditions.
The future is coming closer every day thanks to cutting edge microprocessors and software. Who knows, one day this technology that was developed to keep your touch screen from getting smudgy, may actually save your life.
At the age of 10 Mike begged his father to get him a computer. Never mind that at the time computers were the size of a large office and cost millions of dollars. Yes, Mike is no spring chicken and he didn’t get the computer, although his father did give him an abacus telling him that it would enable him to use the computer that he already had between his ears, which was not appreciated. Whether it was due to the trauma that resulted from using an abacus or just Mike’s love of anything electronic he has spent the last 30 years or so designing, building, and programming computers, microprocessors, and microcontrollers and developing applications that run on them. And his fascination continues with the definition of new processors and architectures in his search for the holy grail of computing: infinite performance at zero power consumption. Statistically speaking he is convinced it is just a matter of time.
Allen started in the ‘semiconductor IP industry’ before it was called the ‘semiconductor IP industry’. Back then, it was about ‘megafunctions’, ‘megablocks’ or MegaMacros™ (as trademarked by the pioneering UK IP company Allen was with… no, not that UK company). The biggest of these ‘mega’ things was an 8051! Today, of course, IP blocks are much larger and much more complex. And, it’s about the software, as well as the hardware. It’s also about working with a set of partners, sometimes called an ecosystem or community. Allen has been doing that for many years and is enjoying working with old and new friends on the ARC processor ecosystem.