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The Objectifier is a 21st-century reboot of the classic ‘clap-on’ light switch

Why it matters to you

With Bjoern Karmann's Objectifier, any household electronic can easily be taught a range of gesture controls capable of turning it on or off

As the gadgets and gizmos around us get smarter, more of them have begun incorporating some form gesture-control to increase its efficiency of operation. But like the decades-old Clapper — you know, the clap-on, clap-off “As Seen on TV” device — these appliances typically feature one go-to for turning on or off its available features. This is where Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design student Bjoern Karmann’s graduation project bridges that gap. Dubbed (unfortunately) as the Objectifier, Karmann’s device is a camera capable of attaching to electronic devices, thus granting owners the ability to teach it a range of behaviors.

As is evidenced by the clips posted to Karmann’s project page, the Objectifier could feasibly learn how to turn off a lamp at the close of a book or turn on a light by someone simply opening their hand. In essence, owners would teach the Objectifier to react to certain movements and gestures as if they were tutoring a new artificial intelligence system. Though this sounds like users would need a basic understanding of AI machine learning, a companion smartphone application does much of the challenging work itself, allowing the owner to merely perform a gesture to teach it.

“Objectifier empowers people to train objects in their daily environment to respond to their unique behaviors,” Karmann said on his website. “It gives an experience of training an artificial intelligence; a shift from a passive consumer to an active, playful director of domestic technology. With computer vision and a neural network, complex behaviors are associated with your command.  For example, you might want to turn on your radio with your favorite dance move. Connect your radio to the Objectifier and use the training app to show it when the radio should turn on.”

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Because of this soft approach to training an AI, literally anyone could pick up the Objectifier and teach their electronics unique gestures for powering on or powering off. Though the videos Karmann posted show the device taking a few moments to truly learn a new movement, anyone who’s ever used a clap-on, clap-off light knows that something of this nature doesn’t always work as perfectly as they intend. Still, Karmann’s innovation is no doubt a novel approach to turning ordinary appliances into smart, gesture-controlled devices, and the fact he’s made it easy to manipulate an AI makes it even more impressive.