Forget pressing, tapping and keystrokes, Israel’s Extreme Reality lets you use your mobile phones with just a flick of the hand.

Thumb fatigue and remote controls will be a thing of the past once phones are equipped with totally touch-free technology from Israel’s Extreme Reality (XTR).

Debuted at the Texas Instruments booth at the Mobile World Congress in Spain recently, XTR’s Motion Capture Engine gesture interface software is the Tel Aviv-based company’s basis for a whole slew of marketable application possibilities – including controlling your mobile device without touching it.

Operating through a simple webcam, XTR Motion Capture is able to construct a virtual skeleton of fingers, palms and even half the body, so it can “read” gestures programmed into it. A wave of the hand could tell your iPhone to jump to the next contact, or a Lindsay Lohan peace sign to call your BFF.

Extreme Reality

Using a standard webcam, XTR reads hand and body gestures.

This isn’t some far-off dream: XTR software is expected to start arriving in the mobile market by the end of this year. And if you want to feel like the king of your TV, another version soon to launch will let you change channels or banish bad shows and boring commercials with just a flick of the wrist.

Bye-bye Wii?

“What we do is three-dimension human motion capture utilizing a basic webcam on a laptop, or on your cell phone, and use that input to extract a 3D position of the skeleton in real time,” says XTR CTO Ofer Sadka. “What differentiates us from any other company in the world is that we operate from a single standard webcam.”

The essential service will give users control over devices without having to touch them, and without any accessories. The software can track finger movements, or scale up to process body language, depending on how far it calculates the user to be from the camera.

Sadka, whose background is in image processing and computer vision in the area of homeland security, laughs at the notion of Extreme Reality as a huge evolutionary step up from the on-off light switch The Clapper. His company’s technology is so sophisticated that it could even have medical applications in surgical suites, given that hands-free is also germ-free.

For the time being, however, Sadka tells ISRAEL21c that XTR is working with corporate leaders in the three major markets of mobile, TV and gaming. One obvious application will be the ability to capture motion for games that have an avatar; another is playing virtual interactive games using natural human movements instead of a keyboard, mouse or joystick.

Partnership with Texas Instruments

XTR was founded in 2005 and employs a staff of 25. Texas Instruments is a major investor and partner, along with private investors. Working with top-tier handset manufacturers, the company has made its technology to be device agnostic, meaning it can operate on Android, iPhone, PC or Mac.

It’s not surprising that the software has major mobile providers juiced. With more and more countries banning the use of cell phones while driving, and others acknowledging the safety hazards of talking or texting behind the wheel, the ability to answer a call by wagging a finger is of great interest.

According to Sadka, the system can recognize programmed gestures not just from the main user but also from more than one person at a time, at a range of up to eight yards.

That’s an idea worth a thumb’s up.