Google buys human-gesture recognition start-up Flutter

Image caption Flutter said it was "thrilled" to be able to continue its research into gesture recognition at Google

Google has bought a start-up that develops gesture-recognition software.

Flutter, founded three years ago in San Francisco, detects simple hand signals via webcam, using them to control apps such as iTunes and Netflix.

The acquisition has caused speculation that Google will integrate the technology, used by some of its rivals, into its ranges of Chromebook laptops and Nexus handheld devices.

The search giant has not released any details of the deal.

Gesture-recognition technology is widely used in gaming consoles, such as Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Xbox Kinect.

It is also used in some smart TVs, and Samsung recently introduced gesture recognition for its Galaxy S4 smartphone.

The phone's Air Gesture technology allows users to scroll through web pages, accept calls, and control music by waving their hands.

Widespread use

An expert told the BBC that despite Google's acquisition, it remained to be seen whether gesture recognition would become a mainstream technology.

"The more interface styles we can develop the better, but whether gesture recognition becomes the norm depends on how well it can be personalised and whether people embrace it," said Richard Picking, of Glyndwr University.

"It could be particularly useful as a tool for older people, or those with disabilities," he added.

Flutter was initially funded through Y Combinator, a company that nurtures start-ups.

Image caption Microsoft's Kinect technology uses gesture-recognition sensors for gaming

'Rocket fuel'

Co-founder Navneet Dalal, who used to work at Google, announced the deal on Flutter's website.

"Today, we are thrilled to announce that we will be continuing our research at Google," the statement read.

"We're excited to add their rocket fuel to our journey."

Flutter said it would continue to support its current app.

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