GestureTek: A new mobile movement

Olga Kharif
23 Jun 2008

Thanks to the iPhone, Americans are going ga-ga over playing mobile games using the phone's accelerometer. Interestingly, the Japanese might have gone through that phase already.

I recently talked with Ed Fowler, director of business development at a company called GestureTek, which puts Wii-like capabilities into mobile phones. The company's software allows a camera-enabled device to recognize gestures. Using this technology, Japanese consumers can already flick their phone to the right to scroll through digital menus. And, come early 2009, customers of Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo will be able to open and close their fingers to zoom in or out of images and maps displayed on their phones.

What's so cool about this new way of menu navigation is that it doesn't require an accelerometer or an expensive camera to work. The camera has to simply recognize movements, and GestureTek's software takes care of the rest. The software uses frame-rate speed to measure movement. The resulting device can allow an elderly person who lost her glasses to dial 911, or it can help a small child dial mom. It can also allow for some really fun mobile game play.

Fowler says that, back in 2006, DoCoMo introduced four phones using prior-generation GestureTek technology, and two phones with accelerometers (that's a technology that the iPhone uses). The gesture phones sold out. Since then, DoCoMo has stopped carrying accelerometer-based phones, he says.

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