Gesture-sensing technology gets the nod

Motion-sensing technologies developed at A*STAR could revolutionize human–computer interaction

Published online 27 April 2011

The three-dimensional interactive gesture-sensing technology currently driving the home videogame market is now appearing in electronic devices installed in public spaces thanks to technology developed by a team at the A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) led by senior research fellow Corey Manders.

Motion-sensing technology gives enthusiasts the chance to become a virtual football superstar
© 2010 XYZ Wave

The technology, which has been commercialized in partnership with start-up company XYZ Wave, employs pairs of cameras to track users’ movements in three dimensions. This information is then used in real time to detect and respond to different gestures such as the wave of a hand or nod of the head, creating an intuitive and fun way for users to interact with devices. This motion-sensing technology could soon be installed in a range of applications, including interactive information kiosks for tourists, consumer-engaging advertising boards and virtual catalogues in shopping malls, but the possible uses for the technology are practically limitless according to XYZ Wave managing director Chee Yue Ho.

In 2010, at around the same time that Microsoft launched its Kinetic platform, XYZ Wave released GGGoal, a virtual soccer game in which motion sensors track the real-time movement of players as they try to score a virtual goal by beating a computer-generated goalkeeper projected on a large screen. The game is one of a growing band of applications in which users interact with the system via gestures and movements rather than using a conventional controller, and the game was a bid hit during the 2010 Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore. “GGGoal gives enthusiasts the chance to live out their dreams of being a football superstar,” says Ho. “It has even managed to break into Japan’s tough and highly competitive market for innovative products”.

XYZ Wave is also developing controller-free motion-sensing user interfaces for out-of-home devices such as kiosks and game stations using the technology developed at the I2R. Helping patients to rehabilitate in front of a screen at home is another potential application of the technology. To continue to develop and fine-tune the gesture-detecting technology, XYZ Wave signed a research collaboration agreement in 2010 with the I2R.

In 2010, XYZ Wave also successfully secured funding from SPRING Singapore, a Singaporean government agency dedicated to nurturing new business. The company won a Proof-of-Value grant under SPRING Singapore’s Technology Commercialisation Enterprise Scheme to continue to develop the technology. The approval came as a validation for the company, says Ho. “It was no longer just our opinion that we were heading in the right direction. The approval gave a boost to our confidence.”

Products such as GGGoal are an entertaining and impressive demonstration of the power of motion-sensing technology, but the next step will be to translate the features of gesture-sensing technology into a range of products that benefit a broader client base.

One potential application currently under consideration is a virtual catalogue that users will able to flip through just as they would a conventional physical book. “XYZ Wave is constantly looking for innovative ways to infuse this technology into different devices,” says Ho. “This interactive experience will, no doubt, generate buzz — and the excitement will hopefully spur the consumers into making a buying decision.”

About the Institute for Infocomm Research

The A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) was established in 2002 with the mission of becoming a globally preferred source of innovations in interactive secured information, content and services. I2R conducts research and development in information technology, wireless and optical communications, interactive and digital media, signal processing and computing.

About XYZ Wave

XYZ Wave is a start-up company established in 2010 with the aim of developing and marketing motion-sensing technology that will allow consumers to experience intuitive, immersive gesture-based interaction, primarily for the out-of-home market. XYZ Wave has a Research Collaboration Agreement with the A*STAR Institute of Infocomm Research to develop the interactive technology for commercial use. The company has been awarded a SPRING Singapore 'Proof-Of-Value' grant under the Technology Commercialisation Enterprise Scheme.