Qualcomm cuts touch from user interfaces

Forget touch screens. Qualcomm is developing a gesture-based user interface for smart devices that enables all functions to be accessed by waving your hand over the display.
Chief Paul Jacobs demonstrated the technology for the first time at the firm’s annual developer event in Istanbul, telling Telecoms Europe.net it should be ready to roll in the back half of 2012, or early 2013 at the latest.
The demo unit detects movement using an ultrasound set up utilizing the handset’s microphone and speaker, but Jacobs says the firm is “looking to integrate other sensors,” as development work continues. “We have a good roadmap,” he told TE.net.
Jacobs also provided an update on the firm’s development work around augmented reality (AR), demonstrating how the technology can be used to show movie trailers by pointing your phone at a DVD box cover. While the technology feels like it’s been a long time in development, the chief says the software development kit is now available and that “applications are in development.”
The AR market is a potentially lucrative area for the firm. Juniper Research predicts revenues will hit $11.5 million (€8.3 million) this year, and continue climbing to hit $213.3 million by end 2013. However, the market is tipped to really take off in 2014, when Juniper expects revenues to leap to $732.2 million.
While Jacobs also talked up the potential of cloud computing to connect products including white goods and TV sets – a strategy he brands The Internet of Everything -, he noted that a lot of work still needs to be done to enable his vision. In particular the rollout of femtocells and other technologies that boost Internet coverage – particularly in rural areas.
Those technologies will be key to achieving Qualcomm’s vision for new services including mobile healthcare, given Jacobs expects much of the future growth in demand for mobile services to come from emerging markets.
Qualcomm didn’t overlook the hardware side during the event, revealing plans to launch quad-core, 2.5GHz, Snapdragon processors in 2012. Christiano Amon, senior vice president of product management at the QCT business, told delegates it is important to begin seeing devices differently. “They’re becoming a computing platform,” he noted, adding that cloud computing “will enable a new family of products.”
Amon detailed four main product groups the firm will target. Mass market smartphones will be catered for by the S1 class of Snapdragon processors, with high performance smartphones and tablets the domain of its S2 chips. The S3 series is designed for multi-tasking and advanced gaming applications, and the S4 for next generation devices. The latter series is the one set to power Microsoft’s Windows 8 PCs and tablets.