Have you seen Minority Report (come on, who hasn’t?) and watched as John Anderton went through holographic reports and databases solely with his gloved hands? Touchless technology based on gestures instead of clicks and typing may have been an element from a sci-fi movie in 2002 but it’s no longer science fiction today.
As we make more advancements in tech, design and gesture navigation, this is the time where we can navigate through a computing system without the use of a keyboard, a mouse, or even touching anything. Feast your eyes on these amazing technology that work with motion sensors and gesture technology that probably grew from the seeds that were planted in this amazingly accurate Steven Spielberg movie.
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1. Tobii Rex
Tobii Rex is an eye-tracking device from Sweden which works with any computer running on Windows 8. The device has a pair of infrared sensors built in that will track the user’s eyes. Users need just place Tobii Rex on the bottom part of the screen and it will capture eye movements, engaging in Gaze Interaction.
Basically you use your eyes like you would the mouse cursor. Wherever you are looking, the cursor will appear in the precise spot on screen. To select you can use the touchpad. Although not entirely touchless, at least now you need not move a bulky mouse around. It’s also a great alternative to using the finger on a touch tablet, which blocks off the view of what you want to click or select.
As of now Tobii is not out in the market for consumers yet but you can get an invite to for earlier access to it here.
2. Elliptic Labs
Elliptic Labs allows you to operate your computer without touching it with the Windows 8 Gesture Suite. It uses ultrasound so it works not with cameras but with your audio tools. Ideally, you need 6 speakers and 8 microphones but the dedicated speakers on laptops and a normal micrphone could work too.
The speaker will emit ultrasound which will bounce to microphones so that it could track a user’s hand movements which will be interpreted by the Elliptic Labs software.
This technology is designed to work on the Windows 8 platform and is expected to work on tablets, smartphones and even cars. Elliptic Labs is not out for consumers to buy as the company is focusing on marketing it to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM).
Airwriting is a technology that allows you to write text messages or compose emails by writing in the air. Airwriting comes in the form of a glove which recognizes the path your hands and fingers move in as you write. The glove contains sensors that can record hand movements.
What happen is, when the user starts ‘airwriting’, the glove will detect it and send it to the computer via wireless connection. The computer will capture it and decode the movements.
The system is capable of recognizing capital letters and has 8000 vocabulary words. For now, the glove is only a prototype and it’s nowhere near perfect as it still has a 11% error rate. However, the system will self-correct and adapt to the user’s writing style, pushing the error rate down to 3%.
Google has awarded the creator Christoph Amma it’s Google Faculty Research Award (of over $80,000) in hopes that it could help him to developed this system.
eyeSight is a gesture techonology which allows you to navigate through your devices by just pointing at it. Much like how you use a remote to navigate your TV, you don’t have to touch the screen.
And get this, the basic requirement for eyeSight to work is to have a basic 2D webcam (even the built-in ones work) and the software. Your screen need not even be one with touch technology.
To navigate, you just move your finger to move the cursor, push your finger (like how you push a button) to click. eyeSight does not only work with laptops and computers but it also works with a lot of other devices such as tablets, televisions and much more. As of now, eyeSight is not for consumers use, but it is now offering software development kits (SDK) for the Windows, Android and Linux platforms.
Mauz is a third party device that turns your iPhone into a trackpad or mouse. Download the driver into your computer and the app to your iPhone then connect the device to your iPhone via the charger port. Mauz is connected to the computer via Wi-Fi connection. Start navigating through your computer like you would a regular mouse: left click, right click and scroll as normal.
Now comes the fun part, you can use gestures with Mauz too. With the iPhone camera on, move your hands to the left to bring you a page back on your browser and move it right to bring yourself a page forward. If there’s an incoming call or a text message simply intercept it and resume using Mauz right after. Unfortunately, Mauz is not out for consumers to buy just yet.
PointGrab is something similar to eyeSight, in that it enables users to navigate on their computer just by pointing at it. PointGrab comes in the form of a software and only needs a 2D webcam. The camera will detect your hand movements and with that you can control your computer. PointGrab works with computers that run on Windows 7 and 8, smartphones, tablets and television.
Fujitsu, Acer and Lenovo has already implemented this technology in their laptops and computers that run on Windows 8. The software comes with the specific laptops and computers and is not by itself available for purchase.
7. Leap Motion
Leap Motion is a motion sensor device that recognizes the user’s fingers with its infrared LEDs and cameras. As it works by recognizing only your fingers, when you hover over it to type on the keyboard, nothing registers. But when you hover your fingers above it, you can navigate your desktop like you would your smartphone or tablet: flick to browse pages or pinch to zoom, etc.
It’s a small USB device that works the moment you connect it to your computer. You don’t need to charge it and it works even with non-touch sensitive screens. Leap Motion works well with gaming and 3D-related sofwares. You can pre-order Leap Motion for $79.99.
8. Myoelectric Armband
Myoelectric armband or MYO armband is a gadget that allows you to control your other bluetooth enabled devices using your finger or your hands. How it works is that, when put on, the armband will detect movements in in your muscle and translate that into gestures that interact with your computer.
By moving your hands up/down it will scroll the page you are browsing in. By waving it, it will slide through pictures in a photo album or switch between applications running in your system. What would this be good for? At the very least, it will be very good for action games.
9. Microsoft Kinect
Speaking of gaming, Microsoft Kinect is takes gaming with the Xbox to the next stage. It detects and recognizes a user’s body movement and reproduces it within the video game that is being played. It also recognizes the user’s face and voice. With the update Kinect can now read small gesture controls such as pinch to zoom, opening and closing of hands, so you can actually use Microsoft Kinect for other purposes apart from gaming.
Pair it up with NUIA eyeCharm and you have an handy eye-tracking device to work on the computer with. Compared to the Tobii Rex, the eyeCharm is a much cheaper alternative, at only $60. Place the combo below the computer monitor, install its dedicated software and you can start scrolling through web pages just with your eyes. For more information on what you can do with this, check out its KickStarter page. NUIA eyeCharm is waiting release some time in August 2013.
Know of any more touchless technology you want to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.