Gesture control -- from Kinect games to Samsung Smart TV

Gesture control -- from Kinect games to Samsung Smart TV

Summary: The first really major consumer hardware application for gesture control was Microsoft's Kinect. This high-tech camera accessory plugged into an Xbox 360 to add gesture and motion control, as well as voice commands to the popular game console.


The first really major consumer hardware application for gesture control was Microsoft's Kinect. This high-tech camera accessory plugged into an Xbox 360 to add gesture and motion control, as well as voice commands to the popular game console.

What made Kinect interesting, was that it wasn't pitched as a game-only device, and in fact, recently we've heard more about its use as a multimedia remote control than any new video games. (One exception is the brand-new Kinect Star Wars game, which is about as much of a train wreck as it sounds -- although the especially goofy song parody dance mini-game is pure red meat for nerds).

But, Kinect hasn't been a huge game-changer, even though about 18 million units have shipped (note, that's shipped, not sold), since its release in November 2010, and we haven't seen too many other attempts to build devices around hand gestures since.

The exception is Samsung. The electronics giant is promoting a new gesture control system for TVs called Smart TV, which involves building a small webcam into the bezel of a TV and using it to translate hand waves and spoken words into action. Can it add some game-like sizzle to the normally tedious work of pressing remote control buttons (we ask with tongue planted firmly in cheek)?

The short answer is "no." According to our colleagues at CNET: "Smart Interaction has promise but feels half-baked and more like a gimmick than a compelling upgrade. Once the novelty wears off, its usefulness is limited (at best) to those times you don't have a remote in-hand." In hands-on testing, the Smart TV voice and gesture control features routinely mis-heard commands, and the gesture commands were laggy, when they were properly received at all.

It's a shame, because not only is simple voice a gesture control a staple of sci-fi movies and TV shows, but if done right it could actually be very useful for both games and everyday tasks, and could certainly help build game-like experiences into all kinds of situations.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Samsung

Libe Goad

About Libe Goad

Texas native Libe Goad resides in New York City and has spent the past decade covering technology and video games for publications including Blender, PC Magazine, Bust, Seventeen and Sync.

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  • No, thanks

    While I want to watch TV, I'm hardly comfortable with the idea that my TV would me watching ME! Maybe I need to adjust my tinfoil hat, but I'm expecting one day to read of the outrage when folks find those TVs have been hacked and someone HAS been watching them.
    • Also, waving hands in the front of TV just for regular watching is horrible

      ... UI -- it will never fly.

      As well as contest [b]"Who will outvoice another: you or your TV?"[/b] is incredibly stupid for any activity except for complex commands that would allow you to manage recording schedules or human speech search for shows by type and other criteria (like Siri).
  • Wait just a little longer

    There was a time when video cameras were huge contraptions sliding around tv studios, now they're embedded in just about every smartphone, tablet, netbook, tablet and displays. Those same Kinect like sensors will start appearing on the same platforms over time and Windows 8 and its successors will support gesture based interaction and I'm sure Android, Apple and even Linux will follow.

    Once you've used a Kinect you understand the delight of a gesture based UI and the voice, body and facial recognition components offer even more methods of interacting. Add Kinect like sensors to smart glasses tied to a smartphone and you can leave tablets, laptops and desktops behind with hopefully enough transparency in the glasses to prevent you running into walls while you're air typing ;-)

    The problem with computing devices has always been the user interface and I can remember the relief when I went from cards to a keyboard and screen. But a mouse, keyboard and touch can only go so far and at various times of our lives we will often be unable to use them for a variety of reasons too young, too old, too sick,arthritis etc. Gesture and voice recognition and more importantly, the ability for your device to recognise you, will be of enormous benefit.
  • Sold/shipped would be little difference at 18 million

    No-one keeps large inventory these days, for fear of stock not selling.

    And really popular items will move off the shelves very quickly.
  • voice commands

    For TV and movie watching, it's the voice commands that make the Kinect-ified experience on the Xbox a step above. Being able to talk to your TV and give it commands is nothing short of awesome. But not so much the gesture controls, which are mostly more cumbersome than using a remote...

    although if you can't find the remote... then you can at least pause your movie until you find it. :)
    • Exactly

      "Xbox Pause" works beautifully.
  • Gesture Control is just the start

    Gesture and voice control for your TV inevitably lead to affordable Home Automation.
    Check it out
    The software and cameras have always held this tech back now that those two are within reach. Its just a simple wiring project.