Gesture recognition technology boosted with high-end optical components

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PrimeSense, a developer of gesture recognition technology, has incorporated JDSU optical components into its gesture recognition platform, designed for next-generation gaming and home entertainment systems. The platform will ultimately let a person control technology with natural body gestures instead of using a remote control, a mouse, or any other device.

'Gesture recognition requires that technology adapt more naturally to a person’s gestures, instead of making a person adapt to technology by learning a special skill set,' said David Dahan, COO of PrimeSense. Alan Lowe, president of communications and commercial optical products at JDSU added: 'Gesture recognition is revolutionary because it means that people no longer need to be physically linked to a device to control technology.'

PrimeSense's system uses near-infrared light to illuminate a scene and a CMOS sensor to read the patterned light returning back. A computational algorithm then deciphers the received light pattern to produce a 3D image of the scene. A person’s movements are mapped in the image and incorporated into the system so that they can manipulate the application.

PrimeSense is using lasers from JDSU's optical communications business. The system also incorporates various JDSU optical filters used typically in more industrial-type laser applications. The filters are used to filter out the wavelengths of background light, so only the tracking light gets back to the sensor.

Speaking to Electro Optics, Sinclair Vass, EMEA director at JDSU, explained: 'For the optical source, you need to be able to produce a stable laser, ideally temperature insensitive and high reliability, but in a very low cost, high volume environment. Obviously, these are consumer-type applications, be it gaming or living room applications, so they have to be scalable in volume. On the receive side, again the volume aspects are critical, but then it's about making sure your wavelength window is predictable to let through the light you want to let through – the reflected light off the target – and kill everything else so you don't get spurious noise.'

PrimeSense's product portfolio includes parts of the 'Project Natal' system for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console. 'The segment is really just kicking off,' Vass commented. 'Gaming is the one [application] we're seeing as coming out first in terms of the marketplace maturity.'

Other applications are in the living room environment – being able to sit in front of a TV set and scan through different videos or change television channels, all via hand gestures.

Having used the system, Vass commented: 'They're [gesture recognition systems] very good once you get the knack of it. It's effectively like a touch screen except you don't touch anything. You move your hand in and it recognises that you want to pick up the item and move it around the screen. If you look at the type of technology that Microsoft are using in the Kinect system, it's pretty high fidelity in terms of the detail and resolution you can get from it.'

In the longer term, Vass noted the sensors could be used in laptops or mobile phones, with finger movements controlling the device rather than typing on a keyboard. Currently though, the gaming industry is first major area making use of this technology.