Vision-based gesture recognition on the way for smartphones

Gestures are so ingrained in human culture that it is virtually impossible to communicate without moving your hands or gesticulating with your fingers while in conversation.

According to ABI Research senior analyst Josh Flood, gesture recognition technology will add yet another dimension to our interactions with machines, devices and computers.

“Gesture recognition is a very exciting prospect, particularly for smartphones and tablets,” said Flood.

“These devices are already heavily entrenched into peoples’ lives and another communication interface is always very welcome. [We] forecast that 600 million smartphones will be shipped with vision-based gesture recognition features in 2017.”

As Flood notes, camera-based tracking for gesture recognition has actually been in use for some time. Leading game consoles – Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation – both have gesture recognition equipment; Kinect and PlayStation Eye respectively. 

However, several challenges still remain for gesture recognition technology in terms of their use on mobile devices, including effectiveness in adverse light conditions, variations in the background and high power consumption. Nevertheless, it is believed these problems can be overcome with various tracking platforms and new technologies.

“Qualcomm has been heavily promoting its Snapdragon chipset processors’ visional gesture recognition technology in 2012,” Flood explained.

“Intel has primarily focused upon touch capabilities for its notebooks and ultrabooks this year. [Still], the company’s senior management has acknowledged gesture and voice recognition will be a ‘big deal’ in the computing sector next year.”

Currently, only a small number of the smartphones shipped have gesture recognition. Pantech, a Korean smartphone OEM, began selling its Vega LTE handset during November 2011 with gesture recognition technology using camera-based tracking. 

As noted above, Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon processors will offer smartphone OEMs the ability to easily support camera, infrared, and ultrasound based tracking. 

“These tracking [platforms] give smartphone OEMs and app designers some attractive techniques for new interactions and enhancing the users experience. 

“[Plus], gesture recognition will be useful for media tablets, portable media players, and portable game players. It is projected a higher percentage of media tablets will have the technology than smartphones,” Flood added.