Augumenta Aims to Add Gesture Control to Augmented Reality

It is early days for virtual and augmented reality, but those days have been whipped into a frothy frenzy by the omnipresent Google Glass and the much-awaited Oculus Rift. So much so that we will soon see slicker, sleeker, slimmer wearable gear, but also an emerging cottage industry around the technology. Take Augumenta, a Finland software company who this week at Wearable Tech Expo is demonstrating gesture recognition and control of applications that run on augmented reality glasses from ChipSiP and Epson, and Google's heads up display.

Many of these devices require coupling with a smartphone, either a name brand, or a specialized platform, which for now seems logical when you consider the power required to run, say, binocular projection. But those coupled devices also require some dexterity when you're performing particular tasks, like entering a phone number or manipulating something using an image augmented onto a real object -- and I say this from experience. Augumenta projects objects that you can "touch" or manipulate with hand gestures, and uses the camera from the glasses to capture, respond to, and interact with those gestures.

The Augumenta software will understand six hand gestures when it becomes available, according to the compay's CEO, Tero Aaltonen. Those include open palm, thumbs up, thumbs down, the OK sign, a pointing finger, and a fist. No, a fist with a particular extended finger is not in the mix (we knew you'd ask), but Tero said the company has tested around 12 gestures in total. 

One of the demonstration games the company will allow attendees to play with is Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock (if those final two options are unfamiliar to you, there's a full explanation courtesy of The Big Bang Theory). The other demonstrations include an augmented reality keypad that shows up in one hand while you type in numbers with the other; and a demonstration of slider controls for dimming a light bulb. You can see these demonstrations in the video embedded above.

Applications, of course, will have to be aware of gestures, and that's where the company's APIs and education come in, said the company CTO Peter Antoniac. Augumenta will be available to OEMs like Epson, ChipSiP and Google as a pre-release, and developers will have access to the APIs. Those APIs will also provide access to what the company calls its virtual surface toolkit; those virtual surfaces are images seen only by the smart glass user, and promise to introduce privacy to things like entering a passcode, say at a supermarket payment terminal. The company's executives said that many of more immediate uses for smart glass technology are for commercial applications.

There are no details about the release timeframe for the technology. Augumenta will provide support for Android, Linux, Tizen, iOS and Windows.

Follow Fritz Nelson @fnelson. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson is Editor-at-Large of Tom's Hardware US.
  • applegetsmelaid
    Johnny Mnemonic.
  • fixxxer113
    The future will certainly look ridiculous if everyone goes around gesturing all the time... Also, if this thing ever really picks up, it must be made so that it can recognize only your hand. Imagine the device picking up gestures from people around you...

    Time will tell I guess. I bet people from the past would consider us ridiculous too, seeing everyone nowadays going around with phones and tablets in their hands, talking to themselves on handsfree devices :P