The KIT spin-off Kinemic GmbH is developing a software for keying and device interaction based on steering gestures for industrial applications.
Dr Christoph Amma set off to become an entrepreneur with his doctoral thesis at the Chair of Cognitive Systems in Informatics at KIT: “While I was doing my doctorate, I explored options for recognising and interpreting human movements, especially gesture and handprint character recognition. Ultimately, this was to result in ‘airwriting’, a system enabling letters to be written and recognised in the air without a keying or input device. Texts are thus captured solely by movements of the hand.
Inventor Amma caused a sensation with this invention. His academic work earned him a number of distinctions, including the “Google Faculty Research Award” in 2013. Technical implementation was supported by Marcus Georgi, a fellow informatics scientist at KIT. The positive acclaim the two scientists have met with and the growing interest taken in airwriting have encouraged them to go on pursuing the development of the research results towards concrete applications. Thus the decision to go into business suggested itself. “Progressing from scientific proof to application at client level really is exciting,” Amma remarks. “You have to do a lot of developing to get your own vision put into practice.” Tomt Lenz, a fellow KIT graduate who joined the team, adds: “Thanks to my previous activities as a business consultant, I was able to provide valuable experience in company development.”
Together, the team set out from the notion of freehand writing to develop a concept for a complete system of keying and device interaction for industrial applications. This plan for an elaboration of airwriting also convinced the jury of the funding programme ‘EXIST Transfer of Research’. “Funding gave us scope to carry on with founding Kinemic and at the same time perform the necessary technical developments,” co-founder Lenz explains.
The company’s name is no coincidence, for a “kinem” happens to be the smallest meaningful unit of nonverbal communication. The founders are using this form of communication as the basis of their overall gesture steering system. A wide range of computer and mobile devices can be controlled with the aid of software and sensory armbands. The sensors in the armband first of all capture the rotation rate and acceleration involved in the hand and arm movements and transmit this to the Kinemic software. The computer system that the process is linked to then performs or displays steering commands or writing deduced from recognised movement patterns, with the intelligent algorithm distinguishing true gestures from other movement processes. The software can be individually extended since new gestures can be learnt.
The system offers a wide range of applications. “At the moment, we believe that the greatest benefits are in the industrial sector. Wherever it is important to work free-handed and nevertheless interact with a computer system, such as in production, logistics, maintenance or quality assurance,” Lenz explains. At the workplace, a computer can be operated directly, for example to fill in stocklists or test records without having to put down the tools. Further applications can be developed in combination with portable computer systems, so-called wearables, such as smart watches or smart glasses. Inventor Amma explains: “Through the interaction of our software with mobile devices and wearables, it will at last be possible to make use of Augmented Reality. All important information, ranging from stocklists through assembling instructions to learning contents, can directly be displayed for and controlled by employees.” Kinemic is currently developing individual solutions together with its clients and is optimising the system for industrial applications.
This year, with KIT support, the team presented a demonstrator at Cebit 2016: “The trade fair was a real door opener for us. We have received new impulses and are closely in touch with some companies.” This experience has motivated the founders to take the next steps. “What we now have to tackle is finding suitable solutions for our clients and continuously improving the technology,” Amma says.
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