SAN JOSE, Calif. – Microchip Technology Inc. is rolling out a low power, low cost gesture recognition technology aimed at products from notebooks to lighting controls. The GestIC technology was developed by startup Ident Technology, acquired by Microchip earlier this year.
Nintendo drove gesture recognition into the mainstream with its Wii game console in 2006. Microsoft soon followed with its widely hailed Kinect. Since then a wide range of chip makers from Ceva to Qualcomm have developed or acquired gesture recognition technology.
Microchip aims to stake at a space as one of the lowest cost and power alternatives. The $2 MGC3130 chip at the heart of its approach uses just 150 microwatts in an always-on, wake-on-motion mode. It burns 90 milliwatts at full throttle.
The chip generates a 15 centimeter high electrical field in the 70-130 KHz range using thin sensing electrodes based on conductive materials such as pc board traces. It sports a 150 dpi resolution, sampling at 200 Hz and uses frequency hopping to eliminate interference.
Microchip programmed ten gestures into the device with recognition based on stochastic Hidden Markov models. It also gives developers access to raw data to create and interpret their own gestures.
The MGC3130 will cost just $2.26 in high volume and will be in production in April. The chip is sampling now as part of Microchip’s Sabrewing evaluation kit that sells for $169 and includes five- or seven-inch electrodes and a graphical user interface program.
Taiwan’s AU Optronics Corp. will build the chip into a touch screen display. Microchip is working with about five other OEMs who plan to use the chip in laptops, keyboards and other products.
“We have a long tail of customers, so we expect people to do interesting things with the product,” said Fanie Duvenhage, director of Microchip’s human-machine interface division. “The consumer market moves fast, so we expect it to be first to use the technology, but it will appear in automotive apps and longer term in medical systems, too,” he said.
“I think that it fits a niche based on distance, between touch- and camera-based systems,” said Jordan Selburn, senior principal consumer analyst at IHS iSuppli.
“It’s well suited for tablets, notebooks and desktops, but not for televisions or set-top boxes that tend to be located too far away,” Selburn said. “There may be some industrial uses as well in the home control area, where the sensor is embedded in a wall,” he added.
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