Feature Article

September 10, 2013

Wave Your Hands in the Air: Market for Gesture Sensors Sees Rapid Growth

The market for sensors that track hand movements is growing exponentially, according to global information research company IHS. The growth is a result of the propagation of smartphones and tablets that make use of a gesture-based user interface.

IHS has forecasted that revenue for proximity-based gesture sensors will reach $123 million this year, up from just $42,000 in 2012. Wireless devices and consumer electronics will be the leading applications of gesture sensors.

IHS senior analyst Marwan Boustany noted that Samsung’s Galaxy S4 represents the first major push towards gesture interface in a handset: “This is a step that others in the industry are likely to follow, thanks to the rising availability of gesture solutions from suppliers like U.S.-based Maxim Integrated Products and soon from both Japan’s Sharp and Taiwan-based Capella Microsystems.”

There are two types of gesture solutions for handsets - capacitive and infrared proximity. Capacitive gestures can go further than the aging infrared, allowing a user to interact with his or her device just by waving their hand close to the touch screen without having to use a finger for direct contact (or a stylus as is the case with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3). 

For now, however, gesture sensors will have to be reserved for midrange and high-end smartphone and tablet devices. Tablets such as the Microsoft Surface are very friendly to gesture interactions due to the touch-friendly design of the Windows 8 operation system, much to the chagrin of Windows 8 desktop users.

One other area that has also embraced gesture interfaces is the automotive industry, which IHS says is likely to favor the use of multiple sensors with intelligence contained in one application so that it may combine infrared-based gestures with capacitive touch sensors on a display.

Growth within the market is expected to rise as much as 68 percent from 2014 to 2015, with sensor revenue climbing to $545 million by 2017, according to IHS.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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