Gesture Recognition Technology in Wearables

When it comes to wearables and IoT (Internet of Things), gesture recognition technology has become table stakes, whether it's the Myo Gesture Control Armband, the Apple Watch, or many more smart devices.


With gesture detection at the forefront of wearable technology, let's explore what gestures are, examples of gesture wearables, and the difference between gesture and motion recognition.


What is a gesture?

To determine how to perform gesture recognition on wearables, we first need to answer one question: what is a gesture? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a gesture is defined as "a movement of your body (especially of your hands and arms) that shows or emphasizes an idea or feeling".  With this definition, the main consensus for what a gesture is in the wearables and IoT community is a movement of your hands and arms. Although gestures can be done with other parts of your body, most of these movements would be classified as motion recognition.


Gestures in wearables today

As mentioned previously, the utilization of gestures commands in wearable devices today are abundant. Three types of gesture recognition technology that are on the rise include: wrist, arm, and hand gesture recognition.


The smartwatch and activity tracker are perfect examples of wearables using gesture commands via the wrist. Certain smartwatches and activity trackers like the Apple Watch and the Fitbit HR have wrist raise functionality turning the device's screen on (aka waking the device). This utilizes the accelerometer in the device to understand the change in acceleration across multiple axes.


Apple watch activates on wrist raise

With a quick flick of the wrist, the Apple Watch screen wakes up


Arm gestures use the full movement and muscle twitching of the arm to understand different commands. The Myo Gesture Control Armband is an example of how a wearable device can use muscle movements to control different devices (even your computer!). The Myo armband is even being used in clinical trials with prosthetic limbs, showing wearables can truly be used by anyone.


Hand gesture recognition is on the rise, and multiple firms are trying to flesh out the technology, including Gest and Keyglove, both hand gesture devices creating a simulated keyboard experience. Although hand gesture command technology is still new in comparison to other gesture detection uses, it is sure to be one we see much of in the future.


Gest wearable device

The Gest makes hand gesture devices look sleek


Is gesture recognition the same as motion recognition?

When describing different movements, gesture recognition technology and motion recognition technology are often used interchangeably, however it is important to note these are not the same. In fact, gesture recognition in reality is a subset of motion recognition, as analyzing gestures are essentially analyzing expressive hand and arm movements. It is important to understand the distinction between these two methods of capturing motion.


The reason they're interchangeably used is because of the abundance of gesture recognition devices on the market today compared to other smart devices. Since smartwatches and smart bands are dominating the smart device market, most of the motion data being captured is coming off people's wrists and arms.


This doesn't mean other motion recognition devices do not currently exist. One example is Snypr's smart lacrosse stick, which uses motion to help players improve their form in lacrosse. This stick movement is not necessarily a gesture, however it still classifies and understands specific motions.




Snypr is a smart lacrosse stick and app that helps you train


Motion recognition isn't only confined to sports and fitness either, for example attaching motion sensors to machines on a factory floor is a new way to determine efficiency, heat mapping, and machine utilization. It's only a matter of time once industries become more proficient in creating and enabling motion devices.


In the future, as smart devices become the norm, industries will have to distinguish between different types of motion recognition, with gestures being one subset.