Smart Camera Translates Gestures into Commands

If the popularity of voice-enabled smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home has taught us anything, it’s that the tech world has fully embraced voice as the control interface of choice through the likes of Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and other virtual assistants.

But that doesn’t mean other means of controlling AV electronics and smart home devices aren’t being developed. Case in point: Piccolo Labs is working on what it calls the “world’s first Vision Assistant.”

The startup uses an AI-infused smart camera with skeletal tracking to recognize body movements and gestures in real-time and convert them into commands that control devices. The camera also incorporates depth sensing, night vision, and other artificial-intelligence-infused features.

“Piccolo was founded on the idea that the most magical interactions happen when the underlying technologies are invisible,” wrote founders Marlon Misra and Neil Raina in a recent blog. “With Piccolo, you don’t need to press any buttons, find any remotes, get out your phone, wear a watch, or say anything.”

The developers go on to liken their app-based Vision Assistant to a voice assistant, both of which aim to make life simpler. “The difference is that a Vision Assistant uses a camera and computer vision algorithms to figure out what’s going on,” they explained. “We’re convinced that 10 years from now, the most exciting experiences will be built around vision, not voice…”

With Piccolo’s current system, users point at devices to turn them on/off and use more subtle gestures to do things like adjust TV volume or lighting. “What we hear overwhelmingly is that gestures are faster, more intuitive, more discreet, and just more fun to use,” Misra and Raina said, noting that they envision a future in which things happen automatically depending on who enters the room.

“With vision, you have complete awareness of the environment which means you can put the home on autopilot. Your home will understand you so well that you rarely have to tell it to do anything… Some devices, like lamps, will rarely be adjusted. They will know to be on if you’re around, dim as it gets later, turn off if you take a nap on the sofa, and just slightly illuminate the room if you have to get something in the middle of the night.”

This is one company and technology to keep an eye on.