Researchers at Warwick University claim to have made a technological breakthrough that could enable mobile phones to be used as hand gesture recognition (HGR) devices.

The team from the university’s department of computer science built a piece of software that could be used to turn the 2D cameras in everyday consumer electronic products, such as mobile phones and tablet computers, into HGR devices.

Existing HGR technologies require infrared or 3D cameras, will only work in artificial light, and have been limited to the gaming industry and smart TVs.

The scientists believe their software opens up the possibilities of HGR being used in the automotive, health and consumer electronics sectors.

Professor Chang-Tsun Li, co-inventor from Warwick University, said: “[The] research is a highly significant breakthrough when compared to the existing technology that can only function in isolated and non-real life environments.

“Along with the ability to continue working when other people are moving in the background, adapt to changing lighting conditions and to cope when the hand temporarily moves out of sight, our research not only goes beyond existing HGR technology, but it also makes it practical and easily available for consumers."

A patent application has been filed to the Patent Corporation Treaty.  

Analysts at Markets and Markets predict that the global gesture recognition market is due to grow from $0.3bn last year to an $11.03bn industry by the end of 2020.

Dr Shum Prakash, business development manager at Warwick Ventures said: “For the gesture recognition sector to grow, it needs new, innovative products that address the problems with existing technology and can be easily applied in people’s day-to-day lives. By being able to be used on the devices we already own, this new technology solves both of these problems.”