Intel Buys Into Gesture Recognition With Omek Acquisition

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

Follow on: Google +

The chip manufacturer will pay close to $40m for an Israeli gesture recognition start-up

Chipmaker Intel has announced the plans to acquire Israel-based gesture recognition specialist Omek Interactive for a reported $40 million.

The start-up develops Grasp – a camera-based technology that allows tracking of the hand and individual fingers at ranges as close as 10 cm (3.9 in). Omek also provides middleware and tools which let its customers easily and cost-effectively add gesture recognition to their applications.

According to local news outlet GeekTime, the start-up has already raised $14 million in venture capital, including funding from Intel Capital, Intel’s global investment arm.

Samsung and Qualcomm were also reportedly interested in bidding for Omek. Qualcomm had already bought into gesture recognition in 2011 by acquiring US-based GestureTek.

Beyond the touchscreen

Omek was founded in 2007 by CEO Janine Kutliroff and her husband Gershom Kutliroff, its current CTO. The company uses high resolution depth cameras optimised for close range interaction to track movements of the hand and transform them into data. Omek also develops Beckon – a similar long-range solution useful for TV control and gaming.

virtual-wall-Large (Small) (Custom)It is worth noting that Microsoft’s Kinect, the device that brought full-body motion control to the masses in 2010, was also developed in Israel. Primesense, the company responsible for the chip that powers Kinect, is now reportedly courted by Apple.

Intel began its negotiations with Omek in March, and apparently made a more attractive proposition than its competitors. 150 people employed by the start-up are now expected to move from Omek’s headquarters to Intel’s offices in the same city, Haifa.

“The acquisition of Omek Interactive will help increase Intel’s capabilities in the delivery of more immersive perceptual computing experiences,” said the company in a statement.

Intel hasn’t revealed what exactly it plans to do with the gesture recognition technology, but it is likely to be integrated into its chips, the same way Qualcomm did after buying GestureTek.

Now that the touchscreen interfaces have become truly ubiquitous, gesture control seems to be the next battleground for hardware manufacturers.

Earlier this year, HP had announced a partnership with Leap Motion, which develops the Leap Motion Controller – a tiny bar of metal, plastic and rubber, which connects to a PC and, using two cameras and three infrared LEDs, tracks motions of both hands and all ten fingers at 290 frames per second, precise to about 0.01 mm.

At first, HP will simply bundle Leap Motion Controller with some of its products. By summer 2014, the technology could be embedded directly into HP’s laptops and tablets.

Below, you can see Omek technology in action, and it looks impressive indeed:

 

What do you know about Intel? Take our quiz!