Technology to control smartphones by gesture wins MIT $100K Entrepreneurship prize

Photo courtesy of MIT. Photographer: L. Barry Hetherington.
Photo courtesy of MIT. Photographer: L. Barry Hetherington.

The top prize of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition was awarded to 3dim, a startup whose 3D sensing technology allows users to control the latest generation of smartphones through gestures, MIT said Thursday.

In choosing 3dim for the Robert P. Goldberg $100,000 grand prize, a panel of judges looked at proposals from seven finalists that were winnowed from a field of 215 applicants.

In a statement, 3dim cofounder Andrea Colaço offered this description of the start-up’s technology: “The need for specialized hardware and high power has, to date, prevented 3D gesture capture in mobile devices, leaving users to poke at their small screens. “Unlike existing 3D sensing methods which require high power illumination, sophisticated sensors, and complex processing, the 3dim solution exploits the compressibility of 3D signals to reduce power, cost, and complexity of 3D acquisition. We also provide a natural user interface for wearable devices that have no touchscreens, such as Google Glass.’’


MIT provided a short video that looks to illustrate how the technology works. That video is embedded below.

The founders of 3dim are Colaço, 27, a Media Arts and Sciences PhD student at MIT; Ahmed Kirmani, 28, an MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science PhD student; Nan-Wei Gong, 29, an MIT Media Arts and Sciences PhD student; Vivek Goyal, 41, a research scientist in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics; Nathaniel Stewart, 27, MBA Class of 2013 at MIT Sloan School of Management; and Rahul Tejwani, 29, an MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2013.

Other proposals put forward by finalists included a plan for nuclear generator that could be used in regions off power grids and an idea for sensors on a microchip for the measurement and detection of chemical substances.

At a Wednesday night ceremony on the MIT campus, the award was presented to 3dim by MIT police chief John DiFava, who paid tribute to Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who was killed last month in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

According to MIT’s press release, 3dim team members had spoken with Collier at some length about their technology.

Since its debut in 1989, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition has facilitated the birth of more than 160 companies, which have gone on to raise $1.3 billion in venture capital and build $16 billion in market cap. More than 30 MIT $100K start-ups have been acquired by major companies such as Oracle and Merck. More than 4,600 people are currently employed by MIT $100K companies.

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