Late last year, LG launched a phone with an optional projector attachment that lets you project images from the phone to a larger surface. Now, Canadian company GestureTek says it’ll go one better: It promises to project images from your phone that you can actually interact with.
GestureTek specializes in interfaces that track a user’s hand gestures and body position using a camera. The video below is a concept demo from interface designers TAT. But GestureTek is building the technology for real (initially to be used by a single user, unlike the multi-user scenario shown in the video). An extra camera module and custom lens is required to track the finger on the projected image. The tracking should be quite accurate, with similar performance to the iPhone touch interface.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAJ1SxHCqVc&hl=en_GB&fs=1&]
GestureTek CEO Francis McDougall says, “I see it being functionally identical to an iPad. There is no restriction on the kinds of applications that you could use it for.” The touch projector technology is based on the company’s Illuminate tracker series, which is used in multitouch displays, whiteboards and tables.
Projected keyboard interfaces have been around for a while and have had limited success, so it will be interesting to see how consumers react to this kind of projected interface. GestureTek doesn’t produce consumer products itself, but licenses the technology to OEMs, so it’s hard to say when we will see any commercial products using this technology on the market. However, GestureTek’s gesture recognition technology, futuristic though it seems, is already on its way into consumer products.
First up is a Hitachi TV coming out in Japan in Q3 2010. You can control the TV’s volume and channel using hand gestures processed via a camera in the TV. See a video of the hands-free TV interface here. GestureTek has also developed face identification and recognition technology that allows the TV to identify how many people are in the room as well as their gender and age. It can also be trained to recognize individuals so that, for example, the TV automatically changes to your favorite channel when you enter the room.
The Xbox360 Natal project is an add-on to the Xbox also due for release in Q3 this year. It’s a gaming system with no controller required so that the game action is controlled using gestures. Natal uses a 3D camera and some technology licensed from GestureTek to recognize player gestures.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkSV1rXJ0pU&hl=en_GB&fs=1&]
GestureTek was founded in 1986, has 65 employees and is privately owned with strategic investments DoCoMo and Telefonica.