Wave hello, say goodbye

Gesture recognition is big at CES this year. From TVs to thermostats, manufacturers are keen to show the future of smart technology. However, it’s not without its kinks. As always understanding and interpretation are some of the key drawbacks.

One of the reasons for this is that much of the technology used by device manufactures does little more than react to a series of basic commands. It doesn’t take into account that gestures are as individual as the humans that make them, nor that gestures that come naturally to people vary considerably from culture to culture (warning – these links contain words and gestures that may offend).

While using swiping movements in the air to switch to the next music track for example is relatively easy for a device to interpret and respond, it can only do so if the user does it in the expected manner – no freestyle gymnastics please.

It also doesn’t take into account the complexities that users are likely to demand from the technology. How will a machine react to both voice and gesture commands given simultaneously? Does it take into consideration what the state of the machine is – is it already playing a track, paused or even turned off? Can it recognize that a user might be giving a gesture to wake up a music player, but a voice command to shutdown the TV?

To comprehensively bring complementary devices such as living room entertainment systems into a cohesive state controlled by natural language will require an underlying intelligence that only Natural Language Interaction technology (NLI) can provide. As it evolves in the future and other dimensions such as emotional facial recognition are added to the range of inputs, their interaction with each other will only become more complex.

My Italian colleague assures me it’s entirely possible to have an entire conversation in Italian without speaking using only gestures. How manufactures will integrate their commands into culture ones is something that will need to be interpreted correctly.

Pointing with your finger or giving what many of us recognize as a symbol for OK is considered rude in other countries. As gestures start to take over how we interact with consumer devices will manufacturers be able to persuade people to change their natural gestures or will devices become as individual as their human owners?

Andy, who lives with his family in the UK, is Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Artificial Solutions. A regular speaker at industry conferences and events, Andy delivers insight on the rise of AI, the challenges businesses face and the future of intelligent conversational applications.

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