MONTE CARLO, Monaco Anyone who thinks a touch-screen is a "must have" feature on their next mobile handset might have another think coming. Touching might already be passé.
"Touch-free" control is coming soon, as an application sold at Nokia's Ovi Store in May, according to Itay Katz, founder & CEO of eyeSight Mobile Technologies, who demonstrated his company's ideas at Nokia Developer Summit here.
Taking advantage of Nokia's newly exposed camera API, eyeSight developed an image processing algorithm, which translates the wave of a hand -- captured by a camera sensor on mobile handset -- into a gesture-controlled user interface.
When a call comes to a handset during a meeting, the user no longer needs to fumble for the mute command on a keypad. A wave of the hand across the phone silences it.
To send SMS messages, promising to call after the meeting, a hand-wave in the opposite direction initiates the function.
Similar hand motions trigger other applications.
EyeSight, an Israeli company, demonstrated how its technology helps users to leaf through photos stored on a phone, to scroll Web pages or to hit play/stop, forward/backward on an MP3 player, without actually touching a screen.
Similar principles apply to video games. Users can throw shuriken in a game called Ninja Strike. The throwing motion is captured by the phone's underside camera, launching a deadly strike at opponents. Talk about a killer app!
While Nokia probably never imagined such an application when it first integrated a camera into a phone, eyeSight's technology, running on a mobile handset, uses the camera on the phone to recognize hand motions, and turns each into action.
EyeSight's CEO Katz did not divulge exactly how much CPU processing power its image processing algorithm uses. "We have highly optimized our algorithm so that it can run in the background quietly, without disturbing other apps, even when one is playing a graphics-intensive game running on the same application processor inside a mobile phone," he said.
Has eyeSight's algorithm targeted at any specific application CPU?
"It works with ARM-based multimedia processors," said Katz, "such as Texas Instruments' OMAP or that of Freescale."
EyeSight initially ported its algorithm to Nokia's S60. The Finnish giant claims to have shipped half a billion camera phones to the market.
EyeSight has also ported the same algorithm to Qualcomm's Brew platform. A version for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile will become available "in the near future," said Katz.
What about iPhones?
Katz said, "We can do that once Apple opens up its API to the camera."
EyeSight's algorithm can be customized as a new user interface solution. If mobile phone OEMs want to use it in their handsets, they can license the total software solution from eyeSight.
How much is the licensing fee?
"It will be less than $20 per device," said Katz. "It will be much cheaper than integrating a touch screen," he added.