Posted by:Monica Samuel April 10th, 2013

Software applications pervade every space – automotive, electrical, apparel, electronics, mechanical, and more. There’s a chip to control elements, monitor state, report statistics, make connections or generally, make an inanimate device smarter and intelligent. Technology has taken us from room sized computers to nano chips, wired telephones to satellite communication, and chunky keyboards to touchscreens. The next wave is on us … spatial technology or 3D gestures.

Touchscreen technology was a pretty phenomenal invention. Using intuitive gestures to get work done is indeed a remarkable concept that Apple brought to homes all over the globe through its iPad, iPhone and iPod lineup of products, followed by other vendors in varying degrees of success. Of course, touch technology existed before but it didn’t become significant till Apple made it a given in consumer devices. 3D gestures too have been around since Microsoft Kinect – a gaming console that interpreted physical motions in game or sports play. However, the device is not capable of interpreting finer gestures which would be required if the technology has to be incorporated into smaller screen sizes of smartphones or tablets.

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Samsung is working to get on to the next big thing with its forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S 4 device. The smartphone makes use of infrared beams to detect hand movements above the screen. Samsung calls these features Air View and Air Gesture. They enable the user to hover a finger over an item to bring up a popup, expand an item; wave to accept a call; swipe left or right to switch between screens; etc. Furthermore, Samsung has implemented ‘head-tracking’ where the device detects where the user’s head is pointed and does not go to sleep mode or automatically pauses a video when the user looks away.

Samsung’s venture is a great step forward even if the 3D gestures are limited. Of course, 3D gesture incorporation also requires adequate hardware (e.g. multiple IR sensors) and processor capabilities. Here again, some manufacturers have innovated and made significant headway.

Leap Motion Controller (expected to be available for pre-orders on May 13 from Best Buy stores) is a small piece of hardware that plugs into a USB port for users to experience 3D interactions on their Mac or PC. Leap Motion has invited developers’ thoughts on the innovative use of the device and will award interesting suggestions with a Leap Motion test unit. Though the Leap API is predominantly C++, the team has provided wrappers for Unity, Objective-C, and JavaScript, leading to a range of games (Unity), ports of iOS apps (Objective-C), and websites (JavaScript) leveraging Leap. The company will add a wrapper for Android as well.

Samsung’s venture is a great step forward even if the 3D gestures are limited. Of course, 3D gesture incorporation also requires adequate hardware (e.g. multiple IR sensors) and processor capabilities. Here again, some manufacturers have innovated and made significant headway.

Leap Motion Controller (expected to be available for pre-orders on May 13 from Best Buy stores) is a small piece of hardware that plugs into a USB port for users to experience 3D interactions on their Mac or PC. Leap Motion has invited developers’ thoughts on the innovative use of the device and will award interesting suggestions with a Leap Motion test unit. Though the Leap API is predominantly C++, the team has provided wrappers for Unity, Objective-C, and JavaScript, leading to a range of games (Unity), ports of iOS apps (Objective-C), and websites (JavaScript) leveraging Leap. The company will add a wrapper for Android as well.

Leap Motion has signed a deal with Asus to bundle the controller with high-end notebooks later this year. There could be plans to incorporate the hardware in smartphones and tablets too.

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Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are working on a lightweight solution that will support 3D gestures with minimal hardware add-ons and power consumption. The MagGetz project uses magnetometers of smartphones to detect fields created by other magnets so that a device not only detects movements above it but also around it. However, the technology requires users to wield a magnetic pen or gloves.

With spatial technology becoming part of more consumer devices, a whole new avenue opens up for application development –in mobile, web and desktop categories. It’s an exciting opportunity with huge potential.

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