Microsoft’s Cambridge UK research lab has come up with a new wrist worn 3D hand gesture tracking device. The researchers say that the wrist worn tracker is more comfortable and less cumbersome than a glove yet works accurately in real time and without line of sight or any external sensor. They call the new gadget Digits. The researchers think that Digits will be especially useful when “on the move”.
Why do we need Digits?
The researchers believe that current user interfaces don’t make the most out of humans’ hand movement ability. “Our hands are extremely dexterous, making them the primary mechanism to manipulate and interact with the physical world. Understandably a considerable focus of HCI* research has been in transferring such ‘natural’ hand manipulations into the digital domain. However, current user interfaces rarely leverage the full dexterity of our hands,” says the introduction in the research paper. (*HCI = Human Computer Interaction)
The full 3D pose of user’s hand is recovered in real time, even though they may be resting their hands by their sides or on an armchair. The current prototype is built using only “off-the-shelf hardware” so while the device looks a little ugly and ungainly right now there is plenty of scope for optimisation and designing the whole into something much sleeker.
- Wrist worn IR camera
- Diffuse IR illumination
- IR laser line generator
- Inertia sensor
As well as recognising gestures and interpreting them into commands a computer can sense the hand movements and use them to manipulate 3D objects on your computer/tablet/mobile screen. 3D games and augmented reality applications are thus possible uses of Digits. Microsoft already use Kinect hardware for similar applications when the user is in sight of the sensor. Digits should be able to offer a more accurate, hand-centric gesture interface not requiring any line of sight.
Sometimes you may want to control a device that has no screen, or you cannot see the screen; for instance a smartphone in your pocket. In a video published by Microsoft Research, embedded below, quite a variety of user interactions with a smartphone in a users pocket are demonstrated. Please take a look...
At this stage of development the Digits device still needs to be connected to a PC to carry out the software computations behind the device’s operation. Also the team haven’t mentioned how the device is calibrated, what happens if it moves upon the user’s wrist and other operational details. Because it isn’t a glove the device doesn’t offer any built-in touch sensitivity which could also be important to a user, depending upon intended purpose.
You can take a look at the in depth work behind Digits within the research paper where you will find a lot more info about the hardware, the software and the science behind this fascinating fledgling UI project.