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Artsipreneurs / Creative Businesses: GestureTek
Jun 01 2010

Vincent John Vincent, Co-founder and President of GestureTek, started in the 1980s as a multmedia performance artist who used body gesture controlled technology to interact with virtual worlds. Along with his business partner, Francis McDougal, they refined their system and became pioneers in their field in the late 1980s, leading to the creation of Vivid Group, then ultimately, GestureTek. GestureTek is now a world leader in gesture control technology, which allows its users to control multi-media content, access information, manipulate special effects, even immerse themselves in an interactive 3D virtual world – simply by moving their hands or body. They deliver Wii-like gesture-control without the need to wear, hold or touch anything.

TheArtsies: Hi Vince, give us a general introduction to the types of products and service your company creates

Vince: GestureTek is the pioneer, patent-holder and world leader in gesture-recognition technologies and computer vision for information, presentation and entertainment systems. The company's revolutionary video gesture control software lets users control interactive content, access information, manipulate special effects or immerse themselves in an interactive 3D virtual world - simply by moving their hands or body. In the past 20 years, GestureTek has delivered over 4,000 interactive displays, kiosks, exhibits, games and other interactive solutions for museums, science centers, location-based entertainment facilities, retail stores, tourism and hospitality venues, real estate presentation centers, corporate boardrooms and showrooms, television networks and game developers. The technology is also used by advertisers and marketers to make their digital signs and advertisements interactive and immersive. Healthcare organizations specializing in rehabilitation, sensory stimulation, activation and recreation also use GestureTek's technology for virtual therapy. GestureTek's clients include leading organizations and Fortune 500 companies such as CNN, NASA, Oracle, Intel, Samsung, Sanyo, Nokia, Cingular AT&T Wireless, IBM and Panasonic. Software and patent licensees include Microsoft, Sony, Hasbro, Reactrix and NTT DoCoMo. GestureTek is headquartered in Silicon Valley, with additional offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Asia. Learn more at or call (800) 315-1189.

Our GestureTek Products:

  • GestureXtreme is a virtual reality game system where a person's real-time dynamic video image is immersed into a computer-generated game environment of sporting activities or adventure simulations like skydiving or swimming with sharks. GestureXtreme is similar to Wii, except it's software-based, and uses real player images instead of cartoon characters.
  • The GestPoint series is our line-up of point-to-control user interface products that act as a replacement for a mouse, keyboard or other touch-based peripheral. These systems are used for interactive exhibits and corporate presentations.
  • The Illuminate System Series, includes Illuminate Multi-Touch Table, Illuminate Display and Illuminate Kiosk. This system allows for interactive menu-based multi-media content to be controlled by a user with point or touch gestures, on an interactive table. The table has multi-touch capability. Vertical displays can be custom-designed with multi-touch capability on a panel or window.
  • The GestureFX visual display system includes GroundFX, WallFX, ScreenFX and Table FX. The GestureFX series puts interactive games and special effects onto floors, walls, tables, screens, counters, bartops and windows, to create engaging interactive displays for advertising, promotion and entertainment.
  • ScreenXtreme is an interactive advertising display and digital signage system that immerses a users real-time dynamic video image onscreen and into the middle of the digital signage content, where the user can interact with onscreen effects through hand and body gestures.
  • The Cube is our new turnkey, plug and play portable interactive floor.
  • We also have a unique 3D tracking and control system that uses 3D depth sensing cameras to captures people movements in complete 3D space and translate their hand motions and gestures into computer commands. Applications include full body avatar control, two-handed and multi-touch control and 360 degree navigation control.

TheArtsies: What are some awards or recognitions has GestureTek won?

Vince: Our major ones include:
2008 Digital Signage Interactive Technology Award, 2007 Digie Award, 2008 GSMA Mobile Innovation Global Award, 2008 Natpe ++ Award for Hot Mobile Application, LAPTOP Magazine's Best of CTIA Award. IAAPA 2005 Best New Product for Technology Applied to Amusements. [more].

TheArtsies: Provide some clients you've had opportunities to work with?

Vince: Some of our globally recognized clients:

  • Sony Microsoft
  • Hasbro
  • Do Co MO
  • BT
  • Qualcom
  • Nasa
  • Disney
  • CNN
  • Ford
  • Cisco
  • Johnson and Johnson
  • FedEx
  • GM

TheArtsies: Before taking part in the establishment of GestureTek, you started of as a performance technology artist and had the opportunity to exhibit your work globally. Tell us about your history as an international professional artist.

Vince: Francis MacDougall and I started this company and the technology as our own personal project while we were still at the University of Waterloo. We had an idea about being able to control computers with movement and gestures through video cameras back in 1982. The first project was for our own use as performers getting up on stage and making music through dance movements. In 1986, the year after we had graduated we had a prototype called the Mandala system running on an Amiga computer. Though Francis never joined me in performing I went on to use it to create virtual worlds that I could step into ( chromokey my image on to the screen, surrounded by the animation in the interactive virtual world ) and take the audience on an interactive virtual journey. In real time I'd navigate my way through the virtual worlds and dreamscapes, interact with animation, dance the animation around my body, make music on the virtual instruments that I'd call up, and generally have a fun time on stage. This was done around the world, either solo or with a band accompanying me........Francis and I used the worlds we would create as interactive installations for the public to experience at media festivals, galleries, museums, Sci centers, etc around the world. We installed hundreds of installations and became Canada's leading interactive media artists in the late eighties and the early nineties. Known as the interactive art group, the "Vivid Group", we grew a team of programmers and artist to help us and soon we had done thousands of installations by the late nineties and had become more of a company, known as Vivid Group Inc.

TheArtsies: Along the way, you discovered an opportunity to turn your creative art into a viable business. What was your experience like transitioning from artist to entrepreneur?

Vince: We never really noticed the transition from leading edge artist to state of the art company, it just happened over the years. The only difference we noticed was that we were marketing ourselves more to vertical markets than to the media arts "scene" and we were not being asked to the media festivals as often. By the time we took investment in 2000 we were solidly focused on refining the technology, the product and searching for the "channels" to apply it. Our early investors believed in us both as artist and business professionals that could grow the company. They were the likes of David Bowie, his former manager, the business managers for the Rolling Stones, etc.

TheArtsies:What GestureTek products are really hot in the market right now?

Vince: Our 3D tracking and control technology is also being used by retailers in exciting digital signage applications. There's an interesting Sprint installation that's generating quite a bit of publicity.

Our Cube interactive floor is brand new, and is proving to be incredibly popular with retail stores, medical and dental offices, trade show exhibitors, and architectural firms who design corporate spaces. It's convenience and cost effective because it fits in a small space, requires no hardware to be affixed to the ceiling, can be moved anywhere by anyone at any time, and requires no technical support to run content.

GestureFX for storefront window advertising is really hot right now, since the technology is well suited for consumer advertising. Inwindow Outdoor has done some nice work using our technology in interactive store tours.

Our multi-touch table is also a great success. One installation at the New York City Visitors Centre actually lets tourists take a virtual tour of the city, explore sights and attractions, get directions and even download itineraries to their mobile device.

TheArtsies: GestureTek is known for standing in the forefront of innovation especially in areas of gesture recognition technologies, and computer vision. What technology advancement do you see the world having access to in 2015?

Vince: Definitely video gesture control technology, and advanced applications such as immersion, multi-touch and 3D tracking, will be far more accessible to the world by 2015. Already today, the public loves interacting with multimedia displays through full body or hand gestures, either by being tracked from a distance or close to the display's surface. The intuitive, dynamic nature of these interactions is more like play than information-retrieval, so people engage with these displays much longer than ordinary touch screens. Groups of people even stop others to interact and the whole experience becomes very social. Eventually, as the technology gets cheaper, public landscapes will be filled with these types of interactive displays and the technology will move into the home where every surface of our house can potentially be this type of engaging interactive display.

Applications for 3D and 2D gesture-based interactive experiences are already beginning to make their way into electronic devices such as consoles, television sets and personal computers. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation are capable of gesture input, largely due to licensing agreements between GestureTek and the manufacturers. Millions of digital signage networks and mobile phones worldwide are also already embedded with GestureTek's gesture control software. Thanks to technological advances, greater availability and lower cost in cameras, gesture control will soon hit laptops that have embedded cameras. Hitachi currently promotes a 3D gesture control television prototype using GestureTek technology, which it expects to have on the market by 2010. Finally, Microsoft's Windows 7 release is capable of both touch and gesture controls, and is set up to allow us to deliver our gesture technology connected to a monitor.

TheArtsies: Your company employs a diverse pool of creative talent to create its amazing interactive displays, interfaces, beautiful print materials, etc. What are some creative career positions available in your company and what talent are you always on the look out for?

Vince: We're always on the look-out for talented software engineers, FLASH programmers, multimedia developers, animators, image processing experts and computer technicians. Right now excellent 3D vision engineers are our top priority.

TheArtsies: For anyone interested in working for GestureTek as full-time or freelancer, what do they need to do to get started?

Vince: You need to have experience in the interactive technology field, and have a great resume and/or portfolio. And the passion for this field or work.

TheArtsies: What advice or suggestions do you have for anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur with just an arts related background and creative idea to start with?

Vince: Go for it! You can do anything no matter where you start from....... Ideas need to be turned into concrete manifestations to have value. Be prepared to work hard while you have fun and play. Team up with people that have the skills you lack, both creatively , technologically and business wise.....teams go farther, faster..... Money will only follow you if you have passion, skill, and a good idea of where you are going......

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GestureTek technologies have international patent protection. U.S. patents include: 5,534,917 (Video Gesture Control Motion Detection);
7,058,204 (Multiple Camera Control System, Point to Control Base Patent); 7,421,093 (Multiple Camera Tracking System for Interfacing With an Application);
7,227,526 (Stereo Camera Control, 3D-Vision Image Control System); 7,379,563 (Two Handed Movement Tracker Tracking Bi-Manual Movements);
7,379,566 (Optical Flow-Based Tilt Sensor For Phone Tilt Control); 7,389,591 (Phone Tilt for Typing & Menus/Orientation-Sensitive Signal Output);
7,430,312 (Five Camera 3D Face Capture).

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