BANGALORE: It’s the couch potato’s ultimate dream. You move away from the sofa to refill your popcorn bowl, the TV automatically pauses; the moment you are back on the sofa, it restarts. You put a finger to your lips and say ‘sshh’, the TV mutes.
Aakash Jain’s California-based Cube26 (formerly called PredictGaze) has developed software that allows computers, TVs and mobiles to detect facial expressions, gestures and movements using the devices’ camera from a distance of 12 feet, and react to them.
“A single camera, and it can even be a VGA camera, is sufficient for our system to work. The camera could be one that’s integrated into the device or it could be in a separate device like a set-top box,” says Jain, who started PredictGaze as a project at Cornell University when he was doing his Masters’ in electrical and computer engineering. He then happened to meet Saurav Kumar and Abhilekh Agarwal during various hackathons at Cornell, both of who agreed to join him. In April this year, the trio attended a Startup Mega Weekend organized by Microsoft in which they were declared winners.
A clutch of startups founded by Indians is working to bring Minority Report-like touchless gesture controls to your screens, a technology that’s become popular since Microsoft launched the motion-controlled gaming console Xbox Kinect in 2010. The Kinect enabled gamers to control and interact with the Xbox simply by natural user interfaces like gestures and spoken commands.
Mehul Nariyawala and Navneet Dalal founded San Francisco-based startup Flutter that allows users to play and pause music on Spotify and iTunes on Windows or Mac OS X computers using a simple wave of the hand. “We actually conducted a survey among thousands of users, and the majority of them raised their flat palm as a gesture to stop playing music,” says Mehul, who worked with Salesforce.com and Like.com before starting Flutter. Most music listeners, he says, play music in the background when they are browsing the internet or coding.
Mumbai-based Balkrishna Heroor’s Gameizon has a solution called LivePlay that works with the Xbox Kinect. It allows you to replay on TV a cricket ball that was bowled, and you can then ‘play’ that ball (use your motion) differently from what the original batsman did, and see if you can get a better result. Heroor , a cricket buff himself, remembers the India vs South Africa Super 8 match in the Twenty20 World Cup in Colombo this October. “Kallis bowled a poor bouncer at Kohli, which he should have pulled away, but he made a mess of the shot and gave a simple catch to DeVilliers. With LivePlay I could see what Kohli should actually have done,” he says.