3Gear is another new gesture interface competitor

Technology Review – San Francisco-based startup called 3Gear has developed a gesture interface that can track fast-moving fingers. This is a competitor to Leap Motion.

Today the company will release an early version of its software to programmers. The setup requires two 3-D cameras positioned above the user to the right and left.

The hope is that developers will create useful applications that will expand the reach of 3Gear’s hand-tracking algorithms. Eventually, says Robert Wang, who cofounded the company, 3Gear’s technology could be used by engineers to craft 3-D objects, by gamers who want precision play, by surgeons who need to manipulate 3-D data during operations, and by anyone who wants a computer to do her bidding with a wave of the finger.

They use two 3-D cameras above the hands. They are currently rigged on a metal frame, but eventually could be clipped onto a monitor. A view from above means that hands can rest on a desk or stay on a keyboard. (While the 3Gear software development kit is free during its public beta, which lasts until November 30, developers must purchase their own hardware, including cameras and frame.)

“Other projects have replaced touch screens with sensors that sit on the desk and point up toward the screen, still requiring the user to reach forward, away from the keyboard,” says Daniel Wigdor, professor of computer science at the University of Toronto and author of Brave NUI World, a book about touch and gesture interfaces. “This solution tries to address that.”

3Gear isn’t alone in its desire to tackle the finer points of gesture tracking. Earlier this year, Microsoft released an update that enabled people who develop Kinect for Windows software to track head position, eyebrow location, and the shape of a mouth. Additionally, Israeli startup Omek, Belgian startup SoftKinetic, and a startup from San Francisco called Leap Motion—which claims its small, single-camera system will track movements to a hundredth of a millimeter—are all jockeying for a position in the fledgling gesture-interface market.

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