Microsoft’s ATL believes gesture control is the future of VR
You hold up your wallet and the door opens, the lights come on as you step into the room, your computer unlocks at your approach and locks when you nip to the loo where you flush, wash and dry without having to touch anything. Gesture control is already with us, isn’t it? Well not quite, because those actions I’ve just described are single sensor responses. When you have a machine that recognises and responds to a sequence of gestures, that can in effect read a gesture language and respond appropriately, then you are talking about a sensing and computing device that has an ‘intelligence.’
According to Digital Trends, ‘Microsoft believes motions and gestures could be the best input methods for virtual reality and it’s putting a lot of time and effort into developing that capability.’ Microsoft has already demonstrated the commercial applications with the introduction of its Kinect system to Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It’s also developing Soli, a tiny radar that can detect small hand gestures.
Already there are quite a few apps out there that enable you to control your Android by the gesture. ‘Side Control’ enables you to set up a dedicated gesture for a specific task. ‘Air Call-Accept’ allows you to answer or decline calls by gesture and ‘iGest Gesture Launcher’ is an app with which you can create a gesture and associate it with an action. Clearly ‘gesture control’ technology is inextricably bound up with developments in ‘augmented reality’ and as the huge success of Pokemon Go demonstrates, the immediate commercial application of this technology is in the gaming sector. A company that’s seen the potential for this technology is partypoker. The platform, with the help of new mobile app, enables players to place bets and flick cards by using hand gestures. It’s a nice example of where a hand gesture is an entirely appropriate way of interacting with the virtual world.
Apart from the gaming industry, VR technology is also of great interest to car manufacturers, in part because it allows drivers to remain focussed on the road, without having to glance at the dashboard. Among the patents filed for Google Cars for gesture-based automotive controls, not only do the cars need to read movement in the outside world, but gesture control would also allow human override of the driving controls. Of more immediate application, PSA Peugeot Citroen is developing its ‘Time of Flight’ camera which enables precise recognition of finger movement, for a full and extensive gestural grammar.
Gesture recognition technology is still in its infancy, but its applications are far-reaching: for the physically impaired or those requiring rehabilitation after debilitating surgery it could transform the quality of their lives. We may still be way off the fully automated gesture activated homes so beloved of 1950’s Science Fiction, but given our insatiable appetite for more and more augmented reality, it surely won’t be that long in coming.