Crunchfish, a Swedish app company, has built software for mobile phones that turns the phone’s camera into a mouse. It allows the phone’s front-facing camera to track a person’s hand movements so he or she doesn’t have to touch the screen. As someone who surfs the web on her handset while eating Chex Mix, this might come in handy (and keep my phone cleaner). It’s also useful for folks wearing gloves.
The Crunchfish gesture control engine also allows for 3-D manipulation of content, although I’m not really able to picture how that works on a flat screen. The software is just a prototype at the moment, and it sounds like handset manufacturers will have to elect to integrate the gesture control with Crunchfish’s existing 3-D rendering engine for cell phones, in order to give developers a chance to take advantage of the motion-control (especially the 3-D part).
Crunchfish isn’t the only one trying to figure out a gesture-controlled UI, and its decision to go after phones seems a bit off. However, as phones get front-facing cameras and have more processing power, the ability to track movements and turn them into commands for the phone could be useful. Samsung has also filed a patent on the topic and a company called Eyesight is trying to bring gesture-controls to tablets.
Mobile tech isn’t the only place motion-control research is targeting; televisions are another popular device. GestureTek, Softkinetic and Canesta (which was purchased by Microsoft) are all working in the television space to enable lazy bums like myself to control our TVs from the couch even if we can’t find a remote.
It may have started with Nintendo’s Wii and graduated all the way up to Microsoft’s Kinect, but gesture controls are moving beyond consoles to help us control the myriad devices around us. Crunchfish may sink or swim, but it’s not alone in its ambitions.
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