T 1692/11 (Camera-based gesture recognition/PIXART) of 16.10.2014

European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:2014:T169211.20141016
Date of decision: 16 October 2014
Case number: T 1692/11
Application number: 04255568.0
IPC class: G06F 3/033
Language of proceedings: EN
Distribution: D
Download and more information:
Decision text in EN (PDF, 273.698K)
Documentation of the appeal procedure can be found in the Register
Bibliographic information is available in: EN
Versions: Unpublished
Title of application: Gesture recognition method and touch system incorporating the same
Applicant name: PixArt Imaging Inc.
Opponent name: -
Board: 3.5.05
Headnote: -
Relevant legal provisions:
European Patent Convention 1973 Art 54
Keywords: Novelty - main and auxiliary request (no)
Catchwords:

-

Cited decisions:
-
Citing decisions:
-

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. The appeal is against the decision of the examining division, posted on 16 February 2011, to refuse European patent application No. 04255568.0 on the grounds of lack of novelty in respect of a main and first auxiliary request and lack of inventive step in respect of a second and third auxiliary request, having regard to the disclosures of

D1: US-A-4 746 770;

D3: WO-A-99/28812;

D5: J. Rekimoto: "SmartSkin: An Infrastructure for Freehand Manipulation on Interactive Surfaces", Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems CHI 2002, pp. 113-120, April 2002,

and on the ground of added subject-matter (Article 123(2) EPC) in respect of a fourth auxiliary request.

Furthermore, in an obiter dictum, the decision under appeal stated that claim 1 of the fourth auxiliary request also lacked an inventive step in view of D1.

II. Notice of appeal was received on 26 April 2011. The appeal fee was paid on the same day. With the statement setting out the grounds of appeal, received on 27 June 2011, the appellant filed a new set of claims according to a main request and first and second auxiliary requests. It requested that the decision of the examining division be set aside and that a patent be granted on the basis of the main request or either of the auxiliary requests.

III. A summons to oral proceedings scheduled for 16 October 2014 was issued on 5 June 2014. In an annex to this summons, the board gave its preliminary opinion on the appeal pursuant to Article 15(1) RPBA. In particular, objections were raised under Article 52(1) EPC in conjunction with Article 54 and/or 56 EPC 1973, mainly having regard to D1, and under Article 123(2) EPC in respect of the second auxiliary request.

IV. With a letter of reply dated 28 July 2014, the appellant submitted counter-arguments to the objections raised in the board's communication under Article 15(1) RPBA, and requested that a patent be granted on the basis of the main request or either of the auxiliary requests.

V. Oral proceedings were held as scheduled on 16 October 2014, during which the pending second auxiliary request was withdrawn.

The appellant's final request was that the decision under appeal be set aside and that a patent be granted on the basis of the claims according to the main request or the first auxiliary request, both requests submitted with the statement setting out the grounds of appeal.

At the end of the oral proceedings, the decision of the board was announced.

VI. Claim 1 of the main request reads as follows:

"A gesture recognition method for use in a camera-based touch system, the method comprising:

capturing images of a touch surface from different vantages using imaging devices that look generally across said touch surface;

processing the captured images to detect different successive pointers being brought into contact with said touch surface, said different successive pointers being part of the gesture to be recognised;

following detection of said different successive pointers brought into contact with the touch surface, examining the relative positions of the successive pointer contacts and subsequently detecting relative movement of the pointers along the touch surface to recognize said gesture; and

when said gesture is recognized, causing an applications program to execute a command associated with said recognized gesture."

Claim 1 of the first auxiliary request reads as follows:

"A gesture recognition method for use in a camera-based touch system, the method comprising:

capturing images of a touch surface from different vantages using imaging devices that look generally across said touch surface;

processing the images and generating pointer data when one or more pointers exist in the captured images;

processing the pointer data to detect multiple pointers being brought into contact with said touch surface, said multiple pointers being part of a gesture to be recognized;

examining the relative positions of the multiple pointer contacts and the pointer types, and subsequently detecting relative movement of the pointers along the touch surface to recognize said gesture; and

when said gesture is recognized, causing an applications program to execute a command associated with said recognized gesture."

Reasons for the Decision

1. The appeal is admissible.

2. MAIN REQUEST

This request is identical to the main request underlying the appealed decision.

2.1 Article 52(1) EPC: Novelty and inventive step

In the board's judgment, claim 1 of this request does not meet the requirements of Article 52(1) EPC in conjunction with Article 54 EPC 1973, for the following reasons:

2.1.1 The board concurs with the finding of the decision under appeal that D1, relating to an optical gesture recognition system like the present invention, discloses all the limiting features of claim 1:

A gesture recognition method for use in a camera-based touch system (see Fig. 1) comprising the steps of:

A) capturing images of a touch surface ("display image region 4") from different vantages using imaging devices ("sensor assemblies 20, 24, 28, 34") that look generally across said touch surface (see e.g. column 3, lines 66-67: "... The sensors function as cameras ...");

B) processing the captured images to detect different successive pointers ("multiple light occluding objects") being brought into contact with said touch surface, said different successive pointers being part of the gesture to be recognised (see column 6, lines 49-54: " ... to detect positions, angles, and velocities of multiple light occluding objects ... to provide an inexpensive means of recognizing ... complex gestures ...");

C) following detection of said different successive pointers brought into contact with the touch surface, examining the relative positions of the successive pointer contacts and subsequently detecting relative movement of the pointers along the touch surface to recognise said gesture (see e.g. column 8, lines 26-32: "... the user has placed fingers 59, 60 respectively near the top and bottom peaks of the displayed waveform ... The amplitude of the generated waveform changes ... in proportion to the movement of the fingers 59, 60 ..." in conjunction with Figs. 14a and 14b);

D) when said gesture is recognised, causing an applications program ("waveform function generator") to execute a command associated with said recognised gesture (implicitly disclosed e.g. by column 8, lines 22-25: "... two fingers 59, 60 are used to control the frequency and amplitude of a square wave 61 produced by a waveform function generator").

2.1.2 The appellant contended that D1 did not disclose features B)B) and C)C) , i.e. detecting successive pointer contacts to recognise a gesture, since D1 - according to column 8, lines 14-18 and Fig. 13 related to rotating a knob - only required that the pointer contacts were in the vicinity of the knob and that there was a relative rotational movement of the two fingers, and since the subsequent detection of finger contacts in D1 was done solely to aid in pointer disambiguation as to imaginary and actual pointer positions according to column 7, lines 5-36 rather than for gesture recognition (cf. statement setting out the grounds of appeal, page 2, last two paragraphs). Moreover, the appellant argued in its letter of reply dated 28 July 2014 and during the oral proceedings that column 6, lines 49-54, column 8, lines 19-22 and column 8, lines 26-32 of D1 only disclosed that multiple fingers were pressed onto the touch surface simultaneously rather than in a successive manner.

However, the board finds that at least Figures 14a and 14b in conjunction with column 8, lines 19-32 of D1 demonstrate clearly that multiple-finger gestures for manipulating instrument curves are recognised based on the relative positions and movements of the respective fingers. Furthermore, the board is convinced that D1 also shows that the temporal sequence of successive finger contacts are detected in D1 for the purpose of gesture recognition (see e.g. column 12, lines 65-68: "... RTN makes it easy to represent sequences of finger positions ..." in conjunction with Figs. 26 to 28 and column 14, lines 3-5: "... finger 2 passes behind finger 1 ..." together with Fig. 35).

2.1.3 For the above reasons, the subject-matter of claim 1 of this request lacks novelty.

2.2 In conclusion, the main request is not allowable under Article 54 EPC 1973.

3. FIRST AUXILIARY REQUEST

This request differs from the main request basically in that the term "different successive pointers" has been replaced by the expression "multiple pointers" in the present claims and in that claim 1 as amended further specifies that

E) pointer data is generated when one or more pointers exist in the captured images (emphasis added);

F) the relative positions of the multiple pointer contacts and the pointer types are examined (emphasis added).

The board is satisfied that feature E)E) is based on page 6, lines 26-31, whilst feature F)F) is supported by page 3, lines 30-31 and page 11, line 27 to page 12, line 8 of the application as filed.

3.1 Article 52(1) EPC: Novelty and inventive step

3.1.1 The feature analysis and observations set out in points 2.1.12.1.1 and 2.1.22.1.2 above concerning the main request apply mutatis mutandis to claim 1 of this auxiliary request.

3.1.2 Moreover, the board holds that feature E)E) is also clearly anticipated by document D1 (see e.g. column 9, lines 5-8: "... the host computer 60 has the (a) "TrackObjects" function which determines the x, y and z axis coordinates of the occluding objects ...").

3.1.3 As to feature F)F) , the appellant argued in the written proceedings that D1 merely disclosed the detection of the size of the "light occluding objects" used and did not make any differentiation as regards the type of the pointer. The board notes however that, firstly, D1 in fact teaches that different pointer types may be applied (see column 3, lines 15-21: "... the term 'light occluding object(s)' ... shall expressly include ... fingers, ... pencils, brushes and other items ...") and, secondly, that due to the broad meaning of the term "pointer type" as claimed the teaching of D1 that different numbers of fingers (such as "clustered fingers") are detected for gesture recognition (see e.g. D1, column 10, lines 26-29) corresponds to detecting at least two different pointer types and thus falls within the ambit of feature F)F) . That broad interpretation of the expression "pointer type" is, moreover, also corroborated by the present application itself (see e.g. claim 2 of the present first auxiliary request: "... wherein said multiple pointers comprise different fingers"). The appellant did not add any arguments regarding the patentability of this request at the oral proceedings before the board.

3.1.4 Accordingly, the subject-matter of claim 1 of this auxiliary request is likewise not new over the disclosure of D1.

3.2 In conclusion, the first auxiliary request is also not allowable under Article 54 EPC 1973.

Order

For these reasons it is decided that:

The appeal is dismissed.

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