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Canadian startup betting big on motion-gesture technology

Imagine, if you will, raising the palm of your hand toward your window blinds to open them, or making a fist at your television and having it turn on. Perhaps, while driving to work, a call comes in, and with a wave of your hand, and it goes away, without taking your eyes off the road.

This is the world of motion-gesture technology envisioned by Waterloo, Ontario-based startup Motion Gestures. Founded in 2016 by entrepreneur Kashif Kahn and developer Arash Abghari, in just two years time, the company has raised millions of dollars from investors in Canada, the U.S., China, Japan and India, and opened offices in Palo Alto, Tokyo, Berlin, and Beijing, reports CTV News Canada.

In May this year, the company launched its patent-pending software platform for gesture recognition applications. The software allows engineers to use their phone cameras to quickly record gestures that can then be integrated into all kinds of products, reducing the time, cost, and effort of building a gesture interface for any system, device, or app.

And this platform supports a wide variety of motion, touch, and vision sensors and can be deployed on cloud, gateway/hub, and embedded platforms. Kahn says that with components becoming less costly, and combined with the power of his software, this means complex gestures performed in 3D space can be picked up by cameras and integrated into products as cheap as a $15 toy.

“Advances in technology are now poised to bring gesture recognition out of a niche area (and) into the consumer mainstream,” Kahn says. “You’re going to see gestures in automotive, wearables, consumer appliances, home automation, toys, video games, robotics, drones … even health care, sanitation, and retail,” he adds. “We want to dominate this space.”

Gesture-motion technology is not new
Using body motions to interact with electronics isn’t exactly new. Nintendo has been using simple gestures in its Wii video game system for more than a decade, while motion gestures have become a big part of virtual reality platforms. But those applications have been primarily focused on entertainment.

Nintendo Wii Fit

Nintendo’s Wii Fit lets you stand on a balance board and hold the Wiimote to do exercises as part of the video game. The game lets you do yoga, strength training and aerobics, and it also includes fun activities like snowboarding and puzzles.
Photo courtesy Nintendo

Now, using motion-gesture technology in a person’s everyday life to interact with electronics is the next big goal. This has been fueled by increasing consumer demand for better and advanced technology, for efficient usage. CTV technology analyst Daniel Bader has watched the Motion Gesture’s demonstration and says that the “technology seems amazing — like super cool.”

But saying that, Bader wonders if the technology really is on the cusp of going mainstream. “Gestures open up this whole world of potential but at the same time open up an entirely new way to frustrate people,” he says.

“Swiping between your television channels using a physical wave of the hand — that feels natural to do that,” Bader says. “But you have to prime your TV to do that. If I wave my hand while talking to somebody and it changes the channel, that’s going to be a bad user experience.”

Bader also mentions privacy issues and the need for consumers to memorize countless gestures to interact with appliances, electronics and who knows what else in our growing list of electronic devices. It could get to the point where someone might say -“Enough of this.”

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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