No more buttons

How to control a device without actually touching it

Woman with smart phone (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Woman with smart phone
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Over the last 10 years we have gone from using a mouse and keyboard for interacting with computers to using touch screens on smart phones and tablet computers.
Is it now time for the next step – controlling a device without actually touching it? The people behind Extreme Reality think so.
“We are a software-only company, meaning that our platform is based on existing hardware to which we don’t add anything,” explains Gil Davidman, Business Director at Extreme Reality (XTR 3D). “We have developed a very unique solution to control devices without the need to touch them.”
Extreme Reality’s technology at first glance seems very similar to that of Microsoft’s Kinect, which directly follows users’ movements when they play games instead of relying on handheld devices.
However, while Kinect uses depth sensors in addition to cameras and microphones to provide its software with the information it needs to track user motion, the technology developed by Extreme Reality uses ordinary two-dimensional cameras, like webcams or built-in smart-phone cameras, to create three-dimensional images. One of the main advantages of Extreme Reality’s system is that it is not bound to a specific platform and is much cheaper than Kinect.
“It’s the next generation after the touch device, so you don’t need to be close to the computer anymore, you can be at a distance from 15-20 centimeters up to a few meters away,” Davidman tells The Jerusalem Report. “You can interact with your hands or even with your full body and have full control of the device.”
In one application, you no longer need to wonder where you last placed the remote control since you can now control the TV simply by moving your hand. The flipside of this is that controlling what you want to watch will be a bit trickier.
While gaming might be the most obvious use for this sort of technology, Davidman says that it can also be used to control the touch screens found in modern cars. Most car touch screens are in the middle of the panel between the driver and passenger seat.
This means that a driver wishing to change a setting on the radio or answer a phone needs to take his eyes off the road, hence increasing the risk of an accident. For business use, Extreme Reality’s technology can be used by a speaker to move between slides in a Power- Point presentation without losing eye contact with the audience.
Gal Mor, a technology blogger at, tells The Report that field-of-motion-controlled devices is expected to grow. “We definitely see more companies who produce technology based on sensors to emulate the human body as an input for an interface,” says Mor. One of Extreme Reality’s backers is American electronics giant Texas Instruments, which last year invested $8 million in the startup.
Apple is reportedly interested in developing this type of technology. In 2011, Apple filed patents that would allow users to move content from one device to another, such as from an iPod to a laptop, without having to touch either.
Apple might also consider using motion control in its much anticipated Apple TV project, the last project that Apple founder Steve Jobs was working on when he died last year. •
Charging on the run
American hip-hop superstar and 13- time Grammy Award winner Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter) has signed a multi-year agreement to be the face and voice for the Duracell-Powermat joint venture. Jay-Z is also an investment partner in Duracell-Powermat.
“I believe in the future of wireless energy and I believe that Duracell-Powermat is the company to bring on the revolution,” Carter said in a statement.
The partnership between Duracell, owned by consumer giant Procter & Gamble, and the Israeli firm Powermat aims to combine Duracell’s expertise in powering devices with Powermat’s wireless charging technology. “We are proud to work with such an inspiring icon, whose music and success speaks to an entire generation all over the world. Our common vision and voice will pave the way for the upcoming wireless power revolution,” said Ron Rabinowitz, CEO of Duracell-Powermat, in a statement.
The new venture began operations in January 2012. It will initially focus on providing solutions for “a world increasingly reliant on batterydraining smart phones.” Powermat’s technology allows electrical devices, such as smart phones or MP3 players, to be charged wirelessly simply by being placed on the Powermat charging surface.
The company claims that since we are spending more and more time constantly on the run while relying on our smart phones and tablet computers, we increasingly need solutions for charging those devices while on the move.
Powermats installed in airport seats can enable passengers to charge their phones by placing them on Powermat surfaces without having to connect a power cord. The technology can also be used in cars, allowing drivers to charge phones while on the road.