Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Month: January 2008

Lleyton Hewitt Trademark Gesture Challenged

I just noticed that there is a new case of people trademarking a gesture. In this case it is tennisplayer Lleyton Hewitt . However, he did not ‘invent’ the gesture (if such a thing could be said about a gesture in the first place), another tennisplayer called Niclas Kroon was apparently the first to trademark this “Vicht” salute, and he shared the rights with Mats Wilander.

Hewitt C'mon
The gesture and accompanying “C’mon” are claimed to be known as “doing a Lleyton”. (source & pic: Getty)

I you find it hard to believe, you may share it with the people on this forum. I merely find it interesting to witness (there are so many other ‘ridiculous’ things that can and will be trademarked). It is certainly not the first time it happens. Besides Kroon, there was once a wrestler called Diamond Dallas Page who fought a legal battle with rapper Jay-Z over a trademark violation of his ‘Diamond Cutter Gesture’. One seems to hear about gesture trademarks only when there is a dispute (as it is often with patents as well).

If you want to study the matter, read Henry Abromson’s good piece on gesture trademarking and the legal case of Page vs. Jay-Z, from which the following pictures were taken:


My first papre was publshed

Oh my god.

I just read the abstract of the first journal paper I have ever published (not counting my writings for the University’s weekly, the Delta). It is horrible writing! After a long and tedious process of writing, revising, co-editing, and revising some more it is unreadable!

The present and past tense are alternated seemingly at random. Bizarre sentences arose from disputes and compromises. Strange ambiguities must leave even the most forgiving reader puzzled and irritated. I promise here and now to do a better job next time.

Well, leaving the abstract aside, the paper contains the results of my first experiments, which are not entirely uninteresting I think, regarding the perception of signs and fidgeting. It is called ‘When and how well do people see the onset of gestures’.

To explain what it is about let me give you a little task. Next time when you are away from your computer and among the people, look for two or three people grouped together, talking or otherwise. Preferably they are at enough distance so as not to be overheard (or take offense at your snooping). Now, watch their movements, their hands. And as soon as you see a gesture you knock on something.

If you do this you will probably experience three things. First, it is an easy task. Second, you will probably ignore the fidgeting. Third, if you ask a friend to join your little game of gesture-spotting (as I have done on many occasions), he will probably knock in response to the same movements that you do.

Now, the ability to spot gestures, and ignore fidgeting, may seem trivial to you, but imagine you were a robot. Do you think computer vision experts would have been able to program you with this ability? At the moment, they don’t even have a clue how to solve this puzzle. You would be forced to analyze any movement as ‘possibly a gesture I might have to respond to’. And perhaps you would wish you had something to filter out the 50% ‘just fidgeting’ (estimate by intuition) to save you time that you need to keep from bumping into lantern posts and such.

Wii-Gesture Control for Robots

Here is a guy called roschler demonstrating how to (learn to) control an i-Sobot, the world’s smallest humanoid robot, with Wii-gestures instead of using a complicated remote control. Because the robot’s routines are mostly gestures you can create commands for them through imitation or iconicity. Probably, actions will often have to be simplified, since I do not expect people will want to make an actual somersault to tell the robot to do that. Also, for certain actions or scripts I imagine that the gestures will become arbitrary and not really intuitive, but probably still easier to use than the alternative RC.

Robot control, another good niche for gesture recognition?

i-SOBOT by ThinkGeek: World’s Smallest Fully Articulated Humanoid Robot
Buy an i-SOBOT at Amazon for about $250
Watch a fight: i-SOBOT vs. Godzilla
More about Robodance, a.k.a. Robosapiens Dance Machine, which can also be used to control WowWee Robots.

Jelgerhuis and the Eloquence of the Body

Here is a wonderful video that sums up and illustrates the main ideas about gestures that are available in the work of Johannes Jelgerhuis, a famous artist of this time as a painter, illustrator and actor. At the same time the video follows the story of a recent book by Herman Roodenburg, Eloquence of the Body, which is however mentioned nowhere. But the illustrations are all in that book and the ideas are the same as well, although I am only halfway in the book so far. I scanned the book written by Jelgerhuis between 1827 and 1830, of which an original copy is available in the library of Utrecht. It is a wonderful series of ┬┤lessons┬┤ about gesture, posture and mimicry with a large collection of plates, witch Jelgerhuis etched himself. There is also a 1970 reprint avaliable with Dutch and English summaries and all the plates. Furthermore there is a full translation, with annotations, available in Golding’s book on classicistic acting.

The ideas of the eighteenth century about the ‘welstand’ in Holland, or more generally about appropriate bodily behavior for the upper classes are inspiring. They contain an appealing myth: acquire a certain second nature of standing, walking, dancing, etc. and you will be lifted in society. People will value your behavior and may consider you their peers. Yet at the same time, paradoxically, such a second nature was only attainable for those of the right first nature. If you didn’t have the right breeding then you might as well forget it.

Ever since I read the books I have been trying to walk more upright, keep my feet at right angles, and behave and talk as elegant as I can. Alas, I slip into my burly uncivilized manners as often as not. I blame my parents for not putting me into a straightjacket as a boy and sending me off to dancing and fencing lessons (I forgive them for my genes, they were all they had to give).

But Jelgerhuis’ book is not about life. It is about acting. He wrote about the art of gesture on stage (see this earlier entry for links to Johann Jakob Engel, but also to the memory of Dene Barnett). But then, life and acting are not exactly two mutually exclusive categories.


JELGERHUIS RZ, JOHANNES Theoretische lessen over de gesticulatie en mimiek, gegeven aan de kweekelingen van het fonds ter opleiding en onderrigting van tooneel-kunstenaars aan den stads schouwburg te Amsterdam. Amsterdam, P. Meijer Warnars, [1827-1830].

Roodenburg, H.W. (2004) The Eloquence of the Body. Studies on Gesture in the Dutch Republic. Waanders, Zwolle, 208 p. 1e dr. (Studies in Netherlandish Art and Cultural History, nr. 6)

Golding, Alfred Siemon; Jelgerhuis, J. (1984). Classicistic Acting: Two Centuries of a Performance Tradition at the Amsterdam Schouwburg to Which Is Appended an Annotated Translation of the Lessons on the Principles of Gesticulation and Mimic Expression of Johannes Jelgerhuis, Rz. University Press of America

ZCam 3D Gesture Recognition

The ZCam, from 3DV Systems, is featuring in several recent movie demos on the YouTube. It is a camera with onboard technology (it emits infrared pulses and catches refections) that not only provides RGB values for a matrix of pixels, but also a Z-score, i.e. the depth of that pixel. It is reported to be quite accurate. It is also reported to become cheaper, and therefore more widely available to, for example, game developers.

The ZCam, small but deep?

So far, there are demos shown of a squash game, a boxing game, and a flight simulator. But the website from the company has a more extensive video gallery.

Here is a nice review on Gizmodo, where they always keep an eye out for interesting gadgets like this. Crowd response has been positive so far but it remains to be seen whether this technology will be adopted in the market. It is at the moment a bit hard to say how well the technology works, what sort of drawbacks there are, etc.

But if it does work well than I think it has less disadvantages than stereo-cameras. I have some experience with a stereo-camera (two synchronized cameras with a software algorithm to integrate their output and obtain depth). This is expensive, costs processing power, costs time to configure, is unreliable (it should not be moved or even touched after configuration), and it relies on skin color segmentation to track faces and hands.

But what about the ZCam, what are users required to do or not to do, that is the question.

Emblems in action

See here a nice video on the YouTube featuring a lot of gestures (it is a group of Sicilians at the dinner table). Thanks to Kensy Cooperrider and his embodied talk weblog for digging up some video gems.

A Sicilian Argument

One of the things I like in this video is that you can see some emblems in action, such as the mano bursa (grip hand). It is made near the end of the video by the man in the blue shirt.

Kendon (1995, 2004) wrote extensively on how gestures like the ones you see here can be used with a high degree of conventionality. The ring hand alone is used in a variety of conventional ways. It is not hard to imagine that indeed this group of people knows how to make their gestures count.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén