New smart home controller Welle turns
gestures into IoT commands
By Clayton Moore — March 31, 2017 5:43 PM
Why it matters to you
Some experts in the IoT market claim voice recognition is the future,
but gesture recognition technology is making its own inroads in the
smart home space.
There’s a new entrant in the race to control your smart home devices. A
Chinese company called Maxustech has made a pretty good impression in
the Kickstarter world with the
Welle — a new smart home controller that uses sonar to recognize
gestures as commands. It feels a bit like using the Force to turn your
stuff on and off, which is pretty cool by itself.
The developers claim the Welle is the first device of its kind to use
embedded sonar to detect human motion for the control of smart devices
and apps. It’s the same kind of tech that is used for high-level sensing
in drones and currently being tested for self-driving cars by a variety
of tech giants. Because it’s meant to be a universal controller, the
Welle can be used to control a wide variety of devices including lights,
televisions, speakers, door locks, thermostats, fans, and more.
More: Researchers add gesture recognition to nearly everything
The early bird price on Kickstarter gets you one Welle for $69, and
Maxustech has raised over $30,000 based on a $20,000 goal. The product
will be in beta testing by May 2017 with production beginning in
September. Maxustech expects to start shipping in October 2017.
In contrast to hands-free devices like the Echo and Google Home, Welle
uses hand signals rather than voice commands to control smart home
devices. It works by emitting low-level ultrasonic waves and collecting
echoes that bounce back within its sensing areas. Then the device
translates those echoes via software algorithms into commands for IoT
devices, software applications, or other controllers. Because the device
is designed to utilize the latest Bluetooth technology in concert with
the latest sonar tech, it also consumes very little power.
The Welle will detect gestures out to about a meter, and recognizes at
least a dozen simple gestures. In a nifty programming trick, the Welle
developers integrated a function where a letter of the alphabet can be
assigned to a unique device. In other words, just dash out an “X” in the
air, and you can fire up the dishwasher or turn on certain lights. The
developers are also using an open application program interface to
encourage software and hardware to redefine gestures and invent new
“Our goal was to create convenient control for people that could be used
anywhere,” says CEO & Founder Mark Zeng. “Our team creates technology
that adds pleasure to life by amplifying natural human ability. The
feedback has been amazing.”
The development of the Welle could also be the cusp of a new age in IoT
control. A recent study by Juniper Research forecasts that by 2020 there
could be more than 400 million motion- and gesture-tracking devices. The
technology could also have a fundamental connection to rising
technologies like virtual reality.