Warwick University to patent 2D camera hand gesture recognition tech

Hand touching digital wall

University of Warwick researchers have developed software that could transform mobile phone cameras into hand gesture recognition (HGR) devices.

The university's research team has developed software that could potentially convert the 2D cameras in smartphones and tablets into devices that can interpret hand gestures in uncontrolled environments.

This is significant as HGR technologies usually require infrared or 3D cameras, as well as artificial light, to work effectively.

Consumers are already aware of existing HGR technology being used, and not always working, with gaming consoles and smart TVs.

Chang-Tsun Li, technology professor at the University of Warwick, said existing technologies struggle to function properly in isolated and non-real life environments.

"Along with the ability to continue working when other people are moving in the background, adapt to changing lighting conditions and to cope when the hand temporarily moves out of sight, our research not only goes beyond existing HGR technology, but it also makes it practical and easily available for consumers," said Li.

HGR is widely used in the gaming industry, and has become a common feature of SMART TVs, but the researchers hope their work will open up the technology to the automotive and health sectors.

As an example, the technology's co-inventor Yi Yao cited surgical settings as a key use case for the software.

"Surgeons, who currently cannot use traditional computers in operating rooms, could search hands-free for data or switch between appliances and similarly, whilst cooking in the kitchen, we could instruct our mobile phones to take a call on speaker or switch to music or video," Yao offered.

The researchers have filed a patent application for the software, and are hopeful that consumer experiences of HGR could lead to their creation being widely adopted.

"Consumers are already aware of existing HGR technology being used, and not always working, with gaming consoles and smart TV[s]," said Yao.

"Whil[e] it will be able to overcome the problems currently faced by users, our new technology could be used in sectors and fields in need of new possibilities."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.