Ina Fried

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Gesture Tech Company Hillcrest Labs Moves Into Smartphone Territory

Hillcrest Labs is the latest company promising to bring Kinect-style gesture recognition to the smartphone.

Hillcrest, which has been working in the gesture and motion technology field for a decade, says the addition of gyroscopes, accelerometers and other sensors to the phone make it a perfect candidate for gesture recognition.

The Rockville, Md.-based company’s FreeSpace motion engine is already used in smart TVs and Roku set-top boxes. Hillcrest said it has adapted its software to also work with devices running Android and Windows 8.

Phones and tablets using its technology should show up starting in the first quarter of next year, Senior VP Chad Lucien told AllThingsD.

“We have a customer today,” Lucien said. “We are not in a position to announce who it is.”

Qualcomm demonstrated its gesture-recognition technology to AllThingsD last month, and Korea’s Pantech has announced gesture-capable phones using technology from Israel’s eyeSight Mobile Technologies.

Gesture recognition has wide potential, Lucien said. In addition to being used in such obvious areas as gaming and augmented reality, sensors can detect when a phone is in a car, and can change the interface and aid indoor navigation by detecting where a phone has headed once it leaves GPS range.

Lucien said Hillcrest’s approach sits in between the sensors and the operating system, allowing it to easily work with a variety of sensors, while at the same time ensuring that programs gain some gesture support without having to customize their software.

Device makers that want to further differentiate their user interface could take things further, Lucien said, and build on top of additional software hooks that Hillcrest has developed.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik