Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hands-Free Computing

Everyone loves to talk about the future of computing and its user interfaces. For many people, this future includes Minority Report multi-touch interfaces. Beautiful and seemingly functional, these immersive environments are certainly attractive. How close are we to achieving something similar with current technology?

Johnny Chung Lee brought us affordable multi-touch using the popular Wii remotes. On the more pricey end of the spectrum, Microsoft brought us multi-touch tabletop computing. One of the iPhone's greatest features (along with related products) is its intuitive multi-touch interface. All of these examples are great, but none seem to come close to slick interface used by Tom Cruise's Minority Report character.

Perhaps Mgestyk, the newest player in the game, has managed to bring us a little closer?

According to Gizmodo:
We've seen gesture controls in gadgets before, but Mgestyk Technologies wants to bring them to your home PC. Using only a 3D camera and proprietary software, the Mgestyk gesture control system is able to capture small hand movements and translate them into commands. These commands can be applied to almost any windows application, including video games. Judging from the clips they have on their site, the system seems to work as advertised, though there does appear to be a little lag. Pricing is expected to be within the range of a high end webcam which by our estimates is around $150.
You can see the gestures in action for various games and apps in the below video.

To me, this isn't really anything too cutting-edge, but I did enjoy seeing how gesture-based gaming might look. I've concluded that, while it seems really cool to be able to aim and shoot with your own hands, I can't see anyone wanting to do it for long. If holding your shoulders tight to use your mouse can cause such havoc on your body, can you imagine having to hold your hands out in free space to play a game for a couple of hours?

I think the real potential for gesture-based computing lies in the area of "step-up and use" computing, like tourist kiosks. These systems generally aren't used for very long and should be very quick to learn. A well crafted interface would make use of a small number of intuitive gestures that even your grandma could understand. Time will tell whether anyone will be able to pull this off.


Anonymous said...

Great video.
Seems some what 'cutting-edge' to me..haha, but then again, I don't study this realm of computer science. This can be fun for a while, but the actions in current games are way to complex for gestures. When you have over 50 different 'events' that you can perform, it's hard to remember all those gestures, and it's a lot easier to mess up the gestures I think.
Also, the input looked a bit choppy.. (car driving).
But none the less, it's the innovation and ingenuity that counts and not the problems with it.

Gail Carmichael said...

I think the problems should count when you are trying to bring it to mass market ;)

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