TALKING HANDS

How Kinemic GmbH, a spin-off from KIT, wants to revolutionize industrial processes with gesture control software.

What was considered a vision of the future in science fiction films 20 years ago is now reality: data glasses on which virtual graphics can be superimposed on the user's field of vision are ubiquitous and have meanwhile also found their way into industrial halls. With the help of augmented reality applications, mechanics can, for example, call up assembly or repair instructions without having to leave their workplace. However, controlling the glasses via small buttons on the side is problematic, especially if users have to wear gloves when working in clean rooms, handling hazardous materials or in extreme environments. While voice control is an alternative, it is often not possible due to ambient noise or data security issues.

This is precisely where Kinemic comes in. Founded in March 2016, the KIT spin-off enables a new form of hands-free human-computer interaction through wearable-based gesture control software. Using the motion sensors of a smartwatch or smart bracelet, the rate of rotation and acceleration of the wrist is recorded. An intelligent algorithm detects whether or which gesture was performed and issues the appropriate command. "Swiping gestures allow the user to navigate through menus, while turning the hand stands for Enter, for example. Customers can determine for themselves exactly what each gesture means," says CEO Christoph Amma,Ph.D., who created an important element of the Kinemic software with his doctorate: an air-writing system that makes it possible to write letters in the air and have them digitized by the computer. Together with Marcus Georgi, Fabian Winnen and Tomt Lenz, Kinemic was then founded in March 2016.

"For most people, it 'clicks' when they've been able to try out our software and realize: This works really well! Then a lot of ideas always come up about which processes could actually be served better."

Christoph Amma, Ph.D.

Admittedly, the idea of gesture control is not a new one in the age of Industry 4.0. But the team at Kinemic has found a new solution: Other systems rely on camera-based gesture control. Here, however, the camera is permanently installed in one place, making it impossible to move freely around the room. "Our approach, on the other hand, allows for easy integration into the workflow", explains Lenz. "It's a clear step forward in terms of use, making processes even more efficient and convenient." The hand replaces computer mouse and keyboard. Gestures instead of clicks. Users who work with checklists, for example, no longer have to run to a terminal after each work step, but can conveniently confirm with a gesture.

The founders presented their technology to the public for the first time at CeBIT 2016, where Angela Merkel was a prominent visitor at the stand. Not only was the Chancellor interested, but numerous pilot customers also took notice of the young start-up. To enable customers to create individual solutions, Kinemic is planning to release a software development kit (SDK) in 2017. In doing so, they want to provide their users with a set of gestures that can be added to at any time and adapted to the individual area of application. "We will then be available to customers as consultants and usability experts", says Lenz.

Video

INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTOPH AMMA, Ph.D.

Kinemic founder Christoph Amma, Ph.D. talks about customer projects and application scenarios.

1. Kinemic's software is already being used by a number of customers in the industrial sector - for example, SEW Eurodrive, Zeppelin Systems and Konica Minolta. What use cases are these customer projects based on?

Some of the applications are very different. The customers mentioned range from remote control of semi-autonomous robots in commissioning, to contactless operation of computers in the food industry, to the future operation of collaborative workstations in offices and meetings. Another important application scenario is the operation of smart glasses, for example in maintenance; here we are currently working with Deutsche Bahn as part of an accelerator program.

2. At the Consumer Electronics Show 2016, Kinemic and the writing utensil manufacturer Stabilo presented the "Digipen" digital pen, which recognizes handwriting and transfers it as digital text to a computer or mobile device. What distinguishes this pen from other digital pens and what are the possible application scenarios?

There are already a number of similar products on the market, but they all work only with specially printed paper, which the manufacturers of course charge dearly for. The Stabilo Digipen, on the other hand, works with any paper. This is possible due to the built-in motion sensor technology in combination with our worldwide unique software for recognizing writing by means of this sensor technology.

The Digipen in video

3. Kinemic offers new customers an evaluation package with sensor wristbands and a Rasperry Pi 3 with their software. Kinemic employees are also available as consultants. What does the collaboration look like in concrete terms?

The customer knows his application and knows best where the shoe pinches and where, through simplified operation with gestures, added value is created for him. We then provide consulting support on how to convert a traditional interface or process to operation with gestures. This expertise is typically not available at the customer's site, and this is where we can provide support with our years of practical and research experience. We do not want to leave our customers alone with our solution, but rather ensure from the very beginning that the development goes in the best possible direction. Technically, the Evaluation Package offers everything needed to integrate our control system into the customer's environment. You can get started right away.

Dr. Christoph Amma

CHRISTOPH AMMA, Ph.D.

Christoph Amma is the developer of the airwriting technology and completed his PhD on airwriting and gesture control with Prof. Tanja Schultz at the Institute of Anthropomatics and Robotics in the field of computer science with a focus on human-machine interaction. The work has received several awards, such as the Google Faculty Research Award, the Otto-Haxel Prize and the Best Paper Award at the Symposium for Wearable Computing. Christoph Amma is Head of Development at Kinemic and involved in technical acquisition.

Tomt Lenz

TOMT LENZ

Tomt Lenz is responsible for the commercial and economic tasks involved in setting up Kinemic GmbH. He brings with him important competences, especially in the field of company set-up and financing, which he was able to acquire as Innovation Manager at engage AG and as Consultant at proLean Consulting AG (meanwhile part of Kerkhoff Consulting). He also gained a wealth of experience in a variety of industrial processes and areas such as manufacturing, maintenance and product development, which are conducive to efficient project work in an industrial environment. Along the way, he acted as a coach for start-ups and structured several spin-off projects in the IT sector. Tomt Lenz is responsible for marketing, finance and human resources.

MARCUS GEORGI

Marcus Georgi has been accepted into the Gifted College of the Faculty of Computer Science during his studies and was already significantly involved in the development and evaluation of the airwriting system as a student assistant. He is co-author of the 2012 Best Paper Award winning publication, as well as one of the winners of the Otto-Haxel Prize. At the International Conference on Bio-Inspired Systems and Signal Processing BIOSIGNALS in 2015, he was awarded Best Student Paper Award for the publication resulting from his master thesis. Marcus Georgi is responsible for the further development of custom applications and the integration of various hardware and AR glasses.

Dr. Christoph Amma

FABIAN WINNEN

Fabian Winnen is a graduate of the master's program in computer science at KIT. As part of his bachelor thesis, he developed a cloud-based Android app that allows the control of individual apps (e.g., media players) via gestures. He brings expertise in app development, both on Android and iOS, has experience in developing distributed network applications and has in-depth knowledge of machine learning with neural networks, which are highly relevant for the applications. Mr. Winnen is responsible for the development for and porting to mobile platforms as well as the further development of the gesture recognition component.

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