Here’s My Digits

Professional illusionists never fail to fascinate with their ability to manipulate the world using simple hand gestures.

Examples of "Digit" system
Examples of the “Digit” system from Microsoft Research’s U.K.-based Cambridge Lab

Now, new gadgets presented at the ACM Symposium on User Interface and Technology suggest that we will all soon be able to do the same in our own homes. The Digits system developed by Microsoft Research is able to capture details of hand gestures (down to the jointed segments of individual fingers) that are missed by full-body motion capture like the Microsoft Kinect system.  Digits consists of a motion detector/camera worn on the wrist to capture gestures without the need for special gloves or outside software. The hand movements are translated on a screen that allows the user to control a computer, and even play a game, all without ever touching a screen or keyboard.

Lead researcher David Kim of Microsoft Research, says that the Digits device will allow anyone to communicate with their surroundings using simple hand gestures.  Hand waving is much more intuitive than point-and-click and research into natural movement could allow the technology to adapt to evolved human responses.

Imagine walking into your home after a long day with your fists gripped with tension. Immediately, pleasant music comes on and the lights dim to create a relaxing ambiance — all because your body language was “read” by a system that could see your fists and understand that it was likely that you were stressed.  Your dog could feed itself using a simple paw movement it learned or you might receive a push notification on your mobile device when your kids are fidgeting far too much to be sitting and doing their homework.  Your environment becomes your own, intuitively making changes to improve your experience of it.

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