Ever since Minority Report the idea of gesture-based computer interfaces has captured the imagination of techo junkies and sci-fi fans. Academic and industry labs have created a host of prototype gesture interfaces, ranging from room-sized systems with multiple cameras to detectors built into laptops screens.
MIT researchers have developed a system that could make gestural interfaces much more practical. Aside from a standard webcam, like those found in many new computers, the system uses only a single piece of hardware: a multicolored Lycra glove that could be manufactured for about a dollar. With the use of multipe colors on the glove it is able to read which part of the hand is being moved.
Other prototypes of low-cost gestural interfaces have used reflective or colored tape attached to the fingertips. The most obvious application of the technology would be in video games: Gamers navigating a virtual world could pick up and wield objects simply by using hand gestures. But you can also imagine that engineers and designers could use the system to more easily and intuitively manipulate 3-D models of commercial products or large civic structures.
The techniques still have a long way to go, for example MIT’s glove needs half an hour to calibrate and works less well in cold environments.
But altogether the technology looks promising and if big players such as Sony and Microsoft implement some of these gesture interfaces we might be up for a treat in the near future.