View from the Mountain
The physical and digital worlds are converging. The process has occurred over time, caused by the advent of sensors that turn physical events into digital data. The next iteration of convergence is here, and is set to explode onto the market: gesture-based technologies, which interpret and react to human movement.
Gesture-tech has taken time to gain mainstream momentum. In 2010, The New York Times summed its history up nicely—it is “one of the most significant changes to human-device interfaces since the mouse appeared next to computers in the early 1980s, but no significant products have gotten much traction.” The lull is now over.
Gesture-tech’s applications are only limited by imagination.
- It can be applied to sign language, so the deaf can transcribe their movements into text.
- It has been applied in rehabilitative medicine, to dictate diagnostic robots interaction with patients.
- The entertainment industry also stands to benefit. Increasingly complex and realistic video games have been able to leverage the technology to build increasingly human movement in the models and refine artificial intelligence.
- Gesture-tech can even interpret and respond to human emotions.
- And yes, coffee machines can now tell when you are tired and dispense coffee for you. Indeed, the future of human-computer interaction is at hand.
Heavy Israeli Involvement
Israeli companies are very active in the gesture-tech space, and many are at its forefront. OurCrowd itself has invested in MUV, a firm that leverages gesture-tech to make any surface into a touch screen. MUV is truly innovative—its tech allows for physical interaction with the surface, or even remote interaction with it (up to 20 meters away). It works with any projector brand, and accommodates social interaction by allowing multiple users to interact with the touch screen projection. MUV started off as an iconic “garage startup” before moving into an office in Herzeliyah in 2012.
Another Israeli company that has received international acclaim is Primesense, which is famous for developing much of the sensory technology behind Microsoft Kinect. Apple has taken note of it, with rumors circulating in the past few months that it is considering a $280 million purchase of the company. The match might be made in heaven—Apple has patented 3-d visual technology for its devices, which would integrate nicely with Primesense’s products. In 2011, Microsoft had offered to buy the company out for a similar sum.
Apple and Microsoft are not the only tech giant searching Israel for gesture-based talent. Intel recently purchased Israeli company Omek for $40 million, to follow Quallcomm’s bid to integrate gesture software in its chips. Intel has made sure to acquire Omek’s talented employees, in addition to the technology itself. It is believed that Samsung and Qualcomm also had their sights on the deal. With its new $100 million sensory technology fund, Intel may very well for other talented Israeli firms in the future.
And then there are the smaller, up-and-coming companies. PointGrab bolsters existing gesture-sensing technologies on smart phones and laptops. Under optimal conditions, its software claims to reach an astonishing 98% accuracy. Pebbles Interfaces is another young Israeli start-up, which recently came out of stealth mode. Recently funded with $11 million, it has targeted Asian markets to expand quicker than more crowded Western markets. Targeting markets the world over, Israeli companies large and small have a strong presence in the gesture-tech market.
The future of gesture-tech’s applications is only limited by imagination. It will be further developed in fields in which has already been applied, but is also set to disrupt new targets. Education may very well incorporate the technology to make learning much more engaging. It is also a crucial element in creating full virtual reality experiences. It is up to debate as to whom will pioneer these changes, but it is clear that Israel stands a chance to do so. Israeli ingenuity and risk tolerance has helped breed a Cambrian explosion in gesture-tech, and we wait in excitement to see what the Start-up Nation will cook up next.