Wave Your Arms in the Air: Etronika’s Gesture-Based Banking

February 22, 2012

We still don’t have hoverboards, but the future as depicted by Hollywood is always inching closer to reality. A Lithuanian tech firm, Etronika, recently developed a beta version of a banking application that syncs with Microsoft’s Kinect, a motion-sensing device that is typically used to make video games more physically interactive. Soon, perhaps, you’ll be able to do your banking with the futuristic ease that Tom Cruise’s character in Minority Report did police work — but without that glove.

Etronika debuted the technology earlier this month at Finovate Europe 2012, in London, after introducing the concept in October of 2011. By using Kinect, Etronika’s software obviates the need for passwords when logging into your bank account. Instead, the motion sensor-based software will rely on biometrics, specifically your face and voice, for login information.
The thing can recognize you by your face and voice.

Microsoft released the Kinect software developer kit for free in June, allowing programmers to take advantage of the motion-sensing camera, which uses both infrared and 3D technologies to track movement and depth. Most software for the Kinect has followed the form of Wii video games, lessening the abstraction inherent to video games — users must actually move to move their avatar. Etronika thought it would work well for banking.

In addition to gestures, users can navigate the system using voice commands, though that might make it less cool. Users can swipe their arms to cycle through options and folders, and lift and unfold their arms to open a folder up. Should a user want to make a payment, she will have to enter a PIN into her phone. Otherwise the system operates entirely using biometrics and body movements.
No, it’s not as swift and elegant as it looked in Minority Report, but then again this is a first-generation technology. And it’s not even commercially available yet. And we don’t yet live in the future depicted in science fiction thrillers. These things need time.

But it is interesting to see that, while technology has made banking increasingly virtual and abstract, there are uses for technology that can bring things back to the physical realm. If this sort of interface proves to be secure and useful enough for consumers, it could represent a massive leap forward in consumer-end technology. We’ll have gone from the ledger book to virtual reality (or something like it) in one generation.

According to Kestutis Gardziulis, the CEO of Etronika, there are already banks interested in buying the software. He said via email that “theoretically our product is available now, but we still need a few months to finalize main building blocks of our solution.” This includes security, he said.
“If we [are talking] just about informational and educational financial services, then our solution could be used now,” he wrote. “But when we talk about secure online baking we still need some development.”

He anticipates that the company will release the next version of the program in “a few months” or perhaps by the end of the year.

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