Intel makes gesture recognition push with Omek acquisition

Intel could make strides in bringing natural interfaces to smartphones and tablets as a result of the purchase

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Intel has moved to bring keyboard-free computing to PCs and mobile phones with the acquisition of Israel-based Omek Interactive.

Omek offers software and programming tools that allow computers and handhelds to recognize hand and body movements. Omek pushes its tracking and gesture products as a way to bring natural interfaces to devices, much like on gaming consoles such as Nintendo's Wii U and Microsoft's Xbox with Kinect.

Intel Israel spokesman Guy Grimland declined to disclose the amount paid for Omek Interactive. The acquisition, announced Tuesday, has already closed.

"The acquisition of Omek Interactive will help increase Intel's capabilities in the delivery of more immersive perceptual computing experiences," Grimland said in an email.

Chip maker Intel typically acquires underlying hardware and software technology that could be used with its hardware. Such acquisitions include Wind River, which has a real-time OS that is now embedded in Intel's chips such as Xeon Phi. Intel is also embedding security software from McAfee, which it acquired in 2011.

Intel in June announced a US$100 million fund to promote the development of applications that use gesture recognition and tracking technology. Intel offers a software development kit for such programs. Omek last month partnered with PC designer Compal to develop a touch-free computer.

As the PC market fades, Intel is also looking to establish a larger presence in the smartphone and tablet markets. The acquisition could give Intel a lead in bringing natural interfaces to handheld devices.

Right now Intel's Atom chips are used in a few mobile devices, but the chip maker is reducing the size and power consumption of its processors as it looks to catch up with market leader ARM Holdings.

Intel is not disclosing the timelines on future products that will integrate Omek's technology, Grimland said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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