Google Acquires Gesture Startup Flutter


Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced yesterday that it had acquired Flutter, a startup that makes a desktop app that allows users to control applications using hand gestures on both Macs and PCs. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) confirmed the acquisition with a spokesperson saying, :We’re really impressed by the Flutter team’s ability to design new technology based on cutting-edge research. We look forward to supporting and collaborating on their research efforts at Google.”

Google Acquires Gesture Startup Flutter

While no dollar amount was put on the deal by either company, TechCrunch is reporting that the price was in the neighbourhood of $40 million.

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What does Flutter do?

Flutter uses a computer’s webcam to capture user’s hand gestures and translate them to specific commands using image processing software. Allowing users, for example, to play and pause songs on iTunes.

Currently, Flutter works with Ecoute, Keynote, iTunes, MPlayerX, Powerpoint, Rdio, Spotify, QuickTime, VLC and Windows Media Player and — through a Chrome extension — Grooveshark, Pandora, Netflix and YouTube.

Google declined to mention whether it would look to Flutter to integrate its gesture capture technology into Android. But, the fact that the Flutter app already works as a Chrome extension suggests the technology at the very least will be integrated with Chrome OS and Chromebooks at some later date.

One must also wonder if Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) might ask the people at Flutter to work with Google Glass, which will likely be released to the general public next year.

Flutter’s CEO statement

Flutter CEO Navneet Dalal expressed his gratitude to the users of the company’s app in a post on the company’s website. He wrote, “We’re inspired everyday when we hear, for example, that Flutter makes you feel like a superhero — because any sufficiently advanced technology should be indistinguishable from magic, right?”

It’s not so much magic as evidence of innovation in computer interaction. After decades of reliance mainly on the keyboard and mouse, the mobile revolution has led researchers to explore touch, voice, gestures, location, eye movement, device movement and even thought as ways to control software applications.

Microsoft Kinect, Nintendo’s Wii Remote, smartphones as TV remotes, and the Leap Motion controller — soon to appear in an HP laptop — all represent examples of new thinking about how we should interact with our machines but Flutter appears to be ahead of most in gesture recognition.

Flutter marks Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s ninth acquisition this year, three shy of the dozen companies it bought in 2012.