Sensors Working Overtime at CES 2014

Design Product News – In the CES 2014 Motion TechZone, developers demonstrated the latest in sensor technology coming to products soon. The magazine only had space for an abridged version of the article.

You can read the full version of the article below.

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Stephen Barraclough, Product Manager for Bosch Sensortec GmbH, demonstrates a prototype motion controller as he manipulates Motion Bob.

By Zac Bolan

“We ship more than 3 million sensors per day,” revealed Stephen Barraclough, Product Manager for Bosch Sensortec GmbH, “–if you have an iPhone or an iPad, you’ve got our sensors. This prototype controller senses motion.” As he spoke, Barraclough moved an X-shaped controller through the air. On a large display Motion Bob gyrated to his command at the Bosch booth in the Motion Tech TechZone at the 2014 International CES, held this past January at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.

“It senses forward, backwards, up and down as well as rotation,” he explained, “–three sensors for acceleration, three for rotation… and another three for the magnetometer, giving precise orientation with regard to the earth’s magnetic field. With this technology applied to smartphones, the next generation of gesture recognition will move past voice recognition. Kids will want to create their own personal gestures to activate and control their phones.”

“You need this degree of accuracy for custom gesturing,” Barraclough continued, “and the subtlety in movement picked up by these sensors will be key in the next generation of game controllers.” As he continued to manipulate Motion Bob, Barraclough explained that the primary markets for this motion control technology actually lie beyond recreational gaming. Augmented reality applications will benefit from these precise sensors, as Bosch already supplies chips for Google Glass. Additionally indoor navigation will be another key focus for this motion sensing technology.

“But really, it’s about HMI, the human-machine-interface. Within three years our kids will be figuring out new things to do with this technology, especially with companies like Samsung investing heavily in gesture recognition,” Barraclough concluded.

While Bosch excels at harnessing sensors to detect motion, eyeSight, an Israel-based software developer, has ingeniously exploited the common laptop 2D camera to recognized many gestures.

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Liat Rostock controls a Windows 8.1 desktop with gestures thanks to Eyesight software and a common 2D webcam.

“Today every smartphone, tablet and smart TV ships with a camera and we are able to use it for gesture recognition,” says Marketing Director Liat Rostock. “Using any 2D camera, eyeSight recognizes hand and fingertip level gestures as well as universally known hand signs.”

Rostock demonstrated a full range of gestures controlling Windows 8.1 on a monitor connected to a Lenovo laptop including: directional gestures; hand, fingertip and depth tracking; as well as hand signs.

“Lenovo recently announced their Carbon laptop with gesture recognition–this is eyeSight technology,” she summarized. “Toshiba All-In-One desktops, smart TVs from Hisense, TCL and Phillips also have our technology inside.”

Nathan Tywman, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Arizona, demonstrates his border security kiosk using Eyetech eye tracking technology.

Nathan Tywman, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Arizona, demonstrates his border security kiosk using Eyetech eye tracking technology.

Eyetech Digital Systems has been in the eye tracking business for more than 18 years according to research engineer Peter Hyatt. “We track the rotations of the eye and use that information to control a computer mouse or to navigate the menu on a TV,” he explained. “It works by using the infra-red reflections of your eye relative to the centre of your pupil.”

Eyetech currently provides OEM eye tracking hardware solutions compatible with Windows and Android over a USB2 connection in addition to free API software for integrating the technology into OEM applications.

“The University of Arizona utilized our technology to build a deception-detection kiosk for border security,” Hyatt revealed.

The kiosk consists of a display showing an avatar at eye level with Eyetech sensors above. The kiosk scans the traveller’s passport as the avatar asks general questions. Meanwhile the Eyetech sensors are measuring the subject’s eye movements and pupil dilation. The avatar then asks specific questions such as ‘Is this your passport?’ while tracking the eyes to see if the traveller looks at a particular feature on the passport. Suspicious reactions can prompt secondary inspection and possibly expose counterfeit documents.

The G-Cube smart gesture dongle enables plug-and-play gesture recognition with any Android device.

The G-Cube smart gesture dongle enables plug-and-play gesture recognition with any Android device.

The TechZone also featured a number of products for the gaming community including an innovative Android smart gesture dongle called the G-Cube, produced by Airjoystick of Korea. After installing this small plug-and-play device on an Android smartphone, users take advantage of the embedded gesture engine to play games, scroll through music, surf the web or even measure their heartbeat without touching the device.

Xsens, a Dutch company specializing sensor fusion algorithms demonstrated their full-body motion capture system in the TechZone. According to company spokesman Jeff Beavers, the suit has two primary uses: creating character animations for gaming, film effects or animations and; capturing full body motion for medical and physiological analysis. In addition to a full range of shipping products utilizing this technology, Xsens offers their know-how to several OEM partners.

A model demonstrates Xsens full body motion capture suit at CES.

A model demonstrates Xsens full body motion capture suit at CES.

If the Motion Tech TechZone at CES 2104 was any indication of coming trends, expect innovative next-generation gesture recognition and eye tracking technologies to appear in consumer products in the very near future.

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