Toshiba's Motion Processor Recognizes Gestures in Real Time--Basis for Future Generation of Natural Interfaces between People and Computers

15 July, 1998

Tokyo--Toshiba Corporation today announced the development of a prototype motion processor that supports real-time recognition and display of kinetic, three-dimensional objects on a PC. The motion processor's ability to recognize and detect the movements of hand images point the way to a more natural, gesture-based interface between people and computers. A commercialized version of the processor will facilitate access to computers for the physically challenged and aged, and provide children with a simpler-to-use interface than the keyboard.

Gesture recognition depends on the ability to separate an object from its background. In conventional approaches, this object segmentation requires a simple background, or the use of special markers affixed to the object to make it stand out. Toshiba's new approach has produced a motion processor able to detect a hand against any kind of background, however complex, and display it in real time as a moving 3D image.

The new motion processor receives infrared light which is emitted from a light source and reflected by the hand. The dissipation of the light ensures that the intensity of reflected light from the background is too weak to detect. Moreover, by using the reflectance and directional information of the object surface, the motion processor is able to use variations in reflected light intensity to construct a 3D image of the hand.

The prototype motion processor consists of eight light emitting diodes (LED), a lens, a C-MOS image sensor, and a dedicated LSI that synchronizes transmission and reception of the light signal. It delivers a seven-bit, 64 X 64 pixel image to the PC, at a rate of 30 or 50 frames a second. The processor has an object range from 30 to 90 cm, and covers an area 40 centimeters square.

The interactive potential of the motion processor can be seen in two successful test applications: playing the traditional Japanese game of rock, paper, scissors against a computer, and a virtual conductor game, in which different hand movements generate various sounds. The commercialized image processor will provide support for computers that recognize sign language and advanced interactive applications in multimedia and edutainment.

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