Israeli tech’s latest success: Award-winning ‘selfie’ app

Israeli tech’s latest success: Award-winning ‘selfie’ app

PointGrab’s CamMe and Wibbitz’s video tech platform is best in show at Mobile World Congress

CamMe in action (Photo credit: Courtesy)
CamMe in action (Photo credit: Courtesy)

If you were wondering what direction gesture technology was going in, here it is, as decided by a distinguished panel of judge at this year’s Mobile World Congress: It’s to take a better “selfie.”

The selfies in question are ones taken using CamMe, a mobile app developed by Israeli gesture tech company PointGrab. On Tuesday, CamMe won the 2014 Most Innovative Mobile App award at the Global Mobile Awards, given out annually at MWC in Barcelona. Using gesture technology, which lets users interface with devices by motioning, instead of touching a screen, users can set up their mobile phone anywhere in a room (up to 16 feet away), and activate their camera by making a fist – thus enabling them to take a photo of anything, including themselves.

Of course, gesture tech is a lot more than selfie apps. PointGrab is the world’s largest supplier of 2D gesture technology, providing a platform for users to interact with TVs, video games, cameras, and other devices by waving their hands or arms in front of a camera or screen to cause a device to take action. PointGrab provides the technology for gesture interaction with numerous devices and platforms, including Windows 8.

CamMe is actually a PointGrab-developed example of the capabilities of its iOS software development kit. Seeing the success of CamMe (it’s been downloaded over a million times since it was released a year ago), other developers are working on more sophisticated uses of the SDK, including instituting gesture functions for core mobile functionalities — such as snoozing the alarm clock, muting the device, answering calls and controlling media applications.

Israel is a world center of gesture technology. Israel’s PrimeSense developed the 3D gesture technology that powers the Microsoft Kinect system, and another Israeli 2D gesture company, EyeSight, is a veteran in the market, established in 2005 and long offering a software kit for manufacturers of devices to include gesture technology in their products. PointGrab, meanwhile, whose technology has generally been placed directly into chipsets by manufacturers, has about 90% of the 2D gesture market.

The reason Israel is so central to the gesture business, a PointGrab spokesperson told The Times of Israel, is because the IDF has been using and developing gesture technology for years, and much of the scientific and research work in the area has been done by Israelis.

According to judges, CamMe is “an app that changes the way we take pictures forever. Utilizing clever hand gestures, this cool and ingenious app is for the new age of the selfie.”

Also scooping up an award was Israeli start-up Wibbitz, which won the Best Mobile Publishing Product or Service award. Wibbitz offers a free iPhone and iPad app that lets users automatically convert news stories into videos.

Instead of squinting at the small print on a screen, an automated voice reads out a news story on one of dozens of news sites, with the audio accompanied by still photos, videos, and infographics relating to a story. The process is 100% automatic and it takes just 10 seconds to convert a text article into a video. Wibbitz enables the production of short video summaries at large scales, creating more than 10,000 videos on a daily basis.

Founded in 2011, Wibbitz has raised $2.3 million from investors including Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures (which invested in Facebook, Spotify and Waze), Lool Ventures, Initial Capital and Kima Ventures.

The MWC judges praised Wibbitz as well, calling it “a great idea, well executed. The Wibbitz technology can automatically turn long text articles into short video summaries in just a few seconds. This service has successfully read and met the needs of today’s time-poor consumer.”

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