Two Microsoft Research projects presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems used unique methods, completely absent of any cameras, to sensegestures. Called Soundwave , one project used a laptop's standard speakers and microphone todetect what motions users were making with their hands. The systememitted an inaudible ultrasonic tone that bounced off a user'shand. Because of the Doppler Effect, the sound waves shifted infrequency and the microphone could hear that shift. The computerthen interpreted the shift and turned it into an action, explainedSidhant Gupta a former Microsoft Research intern. |
To see Soundwave and another project called Humantenna, watch a video on YouTube . Gupta has mapped five gestures to computer actions, but thinks thatthe system could support up to 10. "There's a fundamental limit to what gestures you can perform," hesaid. "The Doppler Effect only senses motion so if you simply keepyou hand in front of it [the computer] it is something we simplycannot detect." The system samples its surroundings every 100 milliseconds andadapts if, for example, a users enters a loud room. Gupta said that one potential application for Soundwave could be incars, where the system is immune to changes in lighting, unlikesome vision-sensing machines.
He said it could also becomplimentary to vision systems. "Soundwave could be used for detecting if a user is performing agesture and then turn on some of the other systems to do some morefine grain gesture sensing," he said. Another Microsoft Research project, called Humantenna , used electromagnetic and radio interference to sense gestures. A device a bit larger than a wrist watch could be attached to ausers. When they wave an arm, kick a leg or stomp a foot, acomputer could be trained to pair those gestures with actions.
"We're simply measuring the voltage on the body," said Gabe Cohn aformer Microsoft Research intern."And part of that is a lowfrequency component that moves because I'm moving and there's ahigh frequency component that's changing because I'm changing myproximity to noise sources in the environment like power lines andappliances." Traditionally, in order for a device to detect what users are doingwith their legs or feet, accelerometers would need to be attachedto them. With Cohn's project, only the small wrist device isneeded. It's not perfect though. The system seemed to work intermittentlyduring a demonstration because of what Cohn described "as a smalltraining set." He said that the system had achieved more than 90 percent accuracyduring a study period.
While both Humantenna and Soundwave offered gesture sensingalternatives, they're only research projects so there are noimmediate plans for commercialization. Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and videofor IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb .
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