Talk to the hand: When gesture tech meets UC&C

The IT that enables collaboration today is largely based on talking and typing, but soon body motions could become a critical part of the mix. An ABI Research analyst explains more

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Gesture recognition for tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices is in its infancy today, but according to one industry analyst, this touch-free interface will be more commonplace soon. And it could have a profound effect on the way people use mobile in various organizations.

ABI Research predicts that by 2018, half of all smartphones will have gesture recognition. Just 12 percent of smartphones have the technology today.

According to ABI’s senior analyst Joshua Flood, that growth will follow a user trend: people seek new and interesting ways to communicate with each other and their devices. Most unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) strategies today are based on the notion of people speaking into a handset or typing on a touchscreen, but Flood believes emerging mobile products—including smart glasses (eyeglasses that give the wearer additional information)—will feature touchless technology.

Instant info for surgeons

Flood suggests gesture-controlled smart glasses might have significant value in operating rooms. He envisions a scenario in which a surgeon would use the eyewear to monitor patient information during procedures, calling up different details without touching the glasses.

It’s easy to imagine other people in hospitals benefiting from gesture technology. Nurses and doctors making rounds, for instance, might access patient information at the bedside without touching the screens on the tablets or smartphones they’re carrying. Such touch-free functionality could be important to prevent the spread of germs.

Other public servants could benefit, too. Consider public-sector employees who carry confidential data on mobile devices. Security is extremely important for them. Information access based on gestures, in addition to typed passwords, would help ensure would-be device or data thieves can’t access sensitive details.

Small gestures, big hurdles

These are early days, though, so questions about gesture recognition in a mobile context remain. For instance, as pointed out in an article, “a key limitation to this technology is that it only recognizes motions, such as a hand flick or circular movement, within a six-inch range.” Will developers be able to enhance the technology for a wider range of gestures, perhaps made farther away from the device?

Power consumption may be a problem as well, the article noted: do the batteries in tablets, smartphones and smart glasses have enough juice to power a sophisticated gesture-based interface for a reasonable period of time?

Another stumbling block may be that users have to learn to use gestures for control, Flood said. But now that gesture recognition is a key component of certain videogame systems, many youngsters may already be familiar with this interface. By the time they reach working age, they may well expect to use gesture-based systems at the office.

That prospect—alongside growing interest among device manufacturers in gesture recognition—means IT decision makers should prepare to see more of this technology in their environments.

While gesture technology continues to evolve, get cracking on what UC&C can offer today by downloading the Enterprise Collaboration eBook: A How-To Guide to Unified Communications

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at


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