It’s perhaps the most widely distributed piece of software made by an Israeli company, present on tens of millions of devices. And it promises a new level of free interaction with your computer, tablet, TV, and many other devices.
Fancy changing channels by flicking your hand? How about clicking on an Internet link by “pressing” the air? That and more is possible – has been possible, actually, since 2010 – thanks to Israel’s PointGrab, whose export, in the form of an inexpensive piece of software to recognize hand gestures, has taken the world by storm.
“Our software is installed on millions of PCs, tablets, televisions, and other devices, and in a few years it will be hundreds of millions,” Yoav Choshen, the company’s vice president of business development, told The Times of Israel.
Hod Hasharon-based PointGrab has quietly been making a huge splash in the world of digital hardware over the past several years. Established in 2008, the company has quickly climbed to the top of its vertical: 90% of two-dimensional hand gesture recognition software is made by PointGrab.
Thanks to agreements with just about every device hardware manufacturer you’ve heard of (and many you probably haven’t), PointGrab software is present in equipment from companies like Lenovo, Fujitsu, Acer, Toshiba, Asus, Haier, and many more.
“There are a few companies working in this space, some of them Israeli, but our technology is unique, and we are the undisputed leader in the industry,” Choshen said.
To use PointGrab technology, users basically just point with their fingers at items on screen to select, wave their hands in order to control a mouse, or grab (with a hand-closing gesture) in order to select objects. PointGrab works best within 5 meters (15 feet) of the webcam or device reading the gestures. The software communicates with the device’s built-in or attached camera (a simple webcam will do), and the algorithms match the gestures to a pre-programmed library, which can be expanded with PointGrab’s machine learning technology.
Although the software has been installed on many devices, most of the devices currently using PointGrab are in use in the Far East, particularly Japan and Korea. That is set to change in a big way, Choshen said.
“Adoption of our technology has been subject to the cycle of hardware manufacturing, and manufacturers have told us that they plan to significantly expand use of PointGrab’s technology in the next year.”
Part of the reason for that is the “coming out” of hand-gesture technology, a result of the popularity of Microsoft’s Kinect system. Kinect’s core technology was also made by an Israeli company, called PrimeSense, but is based on 3D camera technology, as opposed to the 2D technology PointGrab uses. The result is a simpler, cheaper software-only solution (as opposed to Kinect, where you need the actual device to use gesture technology).
The advent of Windows 8 should give motion technology, and PointGrab in particular, a major boost as more people learn about its capabilities. And computers and devices are just the beginning. How about point and grab technology to control cars, air conditioners, microwaves, and a hundred other items? PointGrab is ready for that, too, the company says.
That’s in the future, though; for now, said Choshen, get ready to dump your mouse and exercise your hands; they’re going to be getting a lot more use in the coming year.
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