Gesture recognition may just be the newest feature you can get for your smartphone, and the innovation has been pioneered by an Indian quartet. Reported by a leading Indian newspaper, the system will allow users to interact with their smart devices through thin air, and may render touchscreen technology irrelevant.

While 3D gesture-recognition technology has come into the mainstream, with Microsoft's Kinect and the up-coming Leap Motion leading the pack, a smartphone based on gesture-recognition is a rarity. The system, dubbed 3dim, adds a low-powered infrared light source to a standard smartphone camera. 3dim's software will then search for mathematical structures in the 2D image data to simplify the scene. Differences in the time the infrared light takes to bounce off objects and return to the camera are used to gauge how far away those objects are.

Andrea Colaco and co-founder Ahmed Kirmani at the MIT Entrepreneurship competition

Andrea Colaco and co-founder Ahmed Kirmani presents the 3dim solution

One of the co-founders, Andrea Colaco, who is a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab, said “what is the next interface for cellphone devices? It is gesture recognition. Every cellphone-device manufacturer is scrambling to bring gesture-recognition into their devices. This is an immediate and unaddressed market.”

The innovators won the MIT $100K entrepreneurship competition while presenting their invention as a “3dim”  solution. The innovation gives real-time, millimetre accurate 3D gesture sensing on devices like mobile phones by using patented signal processing methods invented at MIT by Colaco, co-founder Ahmed Kirmani, Vivek K Goyal and Rahul Tejwani. 

Colaco has said that the prototype only requires a few milliwatts of additional power from the phone. This is about one-seventh of the amount of power needed by a standard smartphone camera.

After the team won the competition, Colaco seemed confident that her invention can go far. “Now with the prize money, 3dim will go full steam. We will develop the technology for customers-smart-device manufacturers-who have already expressed interest in the product,” she said.

The team's winning pitch made the most financial sense for the panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, scientists and industry professionals judging the eight finalists from over 3,000 participants.

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