Local start-up scrambles to fix webcam glitch

Promising local start-up Ractiv has hit a speed bump after its flagship product caused problems with video webcams.

The device, Touch+, does away with the need for a mouse or trackpad. Hand gestures detected by the device are converted into computer commands.

The Touch+, which resembles a price scanner, began shipping in mid-September to much fanfare, and the firm raised more than US$180,000 (S$234,000) with 2,059 backers on crowd-funding site Kickstarter.

It attaches to electronic devices such as monitors and laptops via a wire and translates movements into computer commands. For example, a user can turn off a screen by clenching his fist under the scanner.

But some users have complained online that the device has left them unable to retrieve video from their webcams.

The company said it is working to fix the glitch.

In a media statement, it said a faulty chipset driver disables webcams - a problem users can solve only by restoring the computer's factory settings.

"It was not a problem we previously faced (during tests)," said Ractiv's co-founder Darren Lim.

Mr Lim was the first Singaporean to win a US$100,000 fellowship in the United States - set up by Mr Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor - last year. His team is now building the driver from scratch, which is taking "longer than expected".

The 21-year-old Singaporean technopreneur added that the biggest obstacle so far was debugging the driver to make it run reliably and stably.

His team is also trying to resolve a new "blue-screen-of-death" issue that crops up when the device is unplugged or the computer goes to sleep.

"But we think that this is the last problem to solve, and we are wrapping up loose ends at the moment," said Mr Lim.

The company believes a solution will be ready "in a few days" - a deadline buyers have called unrealistic, as the US-registered firm has been telling them that since Oct 21.

As Ractiv readies itself for a new update, buyers with queries can write to the firm at info@ractiv.com, Mr Lim said.


This article was first published on Nov 16, 2014.
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