Feb. 24 - A West Bank start-up is developing ''hands off'' motion interaction technology for use in computers and mobile phones. Despite the difficulties of operating in the Palestinian territories, the team is poised to become a rare West Bank tech success story. Jim Drury reports.
The West Bank isn't the first place you'd look to find technological innovation. But computer engineering graduate Firas Abdulhaq is determined to change that. He and his team have developed PlayFresco, a "hands off" motion interaction technology for use in computers and mobile phones. By placing this motion sensor under a table, gestures or movements can be turned into digital signals and converted in real time to a computer or mobile device. SOUNDBITE (English) PLAYFRESCO CEO, FIRAS ABDULHAQ, SAYING: "So imagine you are in the kitchen and you have dirty hands, you are cooking or something, and then you cannot touch your phone actually because you'll make it dirty, so imagine that you can swipe over the closet or over the table of your kitchen to change the track, to go into 'previous;' to go into 'next track' to use 'volume up', 'volume down', so I think it will give a natural way to control things." Users can also control devices with every day objects, like pens. But developing the system has not been easy. Finding the components and attracting funding in a landlocked territory where neighbours Israel impose stringent economic laws, has been a huge challenge. SOUNDBITE) (English) PLAYFRESCO CEO, FIRAS ABDULHAQ, SAYING: "It's really hard to get electronics in Palestine. And you don't have the ...you can get electronics, but you can get the basic electronics, you can't get the smaller electronics, you don't have the access to whatever electronics you want. Also you don't have... we don't have 3D printers, that was a problem, so our first prototype was made out of carton actually. It looked really horribly bad and it was really big." But now, PlayFresco has attracted outside funding, an exciting development for Abdluhaq and his colleague Sudkey Dwikat. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PLAYFRESCO CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, SUDKEY DWIKAT, SAYING: "Representing Palestine with totally, a new, different state of the art project is something totally different and I feel, really, we are proud. We are proud for doing this, yeah." The team is working on perfecting a smaller prototype, with enhanced software, before manufacture begins in the Czech Republic.