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PointGrab’s gesture controlled switch is the future, but the future isn’t here yet

This year’s CES is absolutely overflowing with smart home gadgetry – everything from thermostats to security cameras to fridges you can control with a text. You name it, and there’s probably somebody here who’s developed a way for you to control it with a smartphone.

That’s all well and good, but it’s also a bit problematic. Smartphone switches are great for turning multiple things on/off all at once, but when you only need to flip one light on, it’s often far more cumbersome and labor-intensive to fire up your phone, launch the appropriate app, and hit the switch than it is to just get off your ass and turn the lights on the old-fashioned way.

PointGrab aims to fix all of that with its upcoming PointSwitch technology. It’s essentially a wall-mounted switch that’s outfitted with a tiny infrared camera, so rather than using your phone or a dedicated remote to switch something on or off in your home, all you’ve got to do is point at the object you wish to interact with.

Using just a single camera, the system can be used to control a multiple fixtures in a given room – your lights, thermostat, TV, speakers, and ostensibly even things like your microwave or dishwasher. PointGrab’s proprietary gesture recognition algorithms can tell what object you’re looking at by tracking the position and orientation of your eyes, and correlating it with where your finger is pointing. 

point-switch-light

It’s a promising idea, and Tony Stark-style gesture control is definitely the future of home automation. Unfortunately PointSwitch isn’t quite as polished as we’d like it to be. It worked decently well during our demo, but still suffered from many of the same problems that most camera-based gesture controls do. If you’ve ever used an Xbox Kinect, you’ll know the feeling – sometimes in order to get the system to recognize your gesture, you’ve got to flail your arms and repeat it, which isn’t the most convenient thing in the world.

This technology will eventually overtake smartphone and remote controls, but it needs to iron out the kinks first. PointSwitch is definitely more convenient to use than a smartphone app, but in its current state it’s not nearly as reliable.

Check out the video below to see it in action, or head over to PointGrab.com for further details.

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