New Technique for Tracking Gestures

An interesting new technique is being explored for tracking gestures. This technique is of special interest to me because, at one time, I worked with SONAR in the Navy. At the time I worked with SONAR, it never occurred to me that the techniques I was using, would also have so many civilian applications. However, things like Doppler effect have had a huge affect on sciences such as predicting the weather. Now there is a new use of the Doppler effect in sensing gestures. When someone moves their hand in a specific way, a system can sense the hand movement and use it to perform a task. Right now the technique is more of an experiment than something that’s useful. The current technology can sense five gestures, but the inventor says that it will eventually be able to sense up to ten gestures. Personally, I think the technology will become refined enough to do a lot more.

My interest in this technology is as a means of providing one more form of accessibility aid for those who need it. Using the Doppler effect in this way has the advantage of making it possible to sense gestures in any light and under most conditions. In other words, even though the range of gestures is limited, once refined, the technology should prove extremely reliable. If you have some special need, reliability is always a primary concern. You need to know that the technology you’re using is always going to work as expected, even if that technology is a little less flexible than you’d like it to be. Someone who has some type of movement or speech need could use hand gestures to better communicate with the computer.

More importantly, for me, seeing this technology coming out tells me that science fiction often becomes science fact. Cinematic presentations such as TekWar have emphasized the use of hand gestures for years now. I remember being quite engrossed in the four made-for-television movies when they came out. One of the technologies that grabbed my attention was how people were manipulating computer input in a 3D space using gestures. This sort of technology seemed like complete fantasy at the time, but now it seems a lot closer to reality.

One of the questions that has occupied my mind for years is whether the mouse and keyboard will eventually go away. Voice technology gets close, but not close enough. I certainly couldn’t use something like Dragon Naturally Speaking to write my books, but some people do use it to create less technical documents. (In fact, I’ve reviewed this product several times—the last time on DevSource, but the article is no longer available.) Human speech is so complex that we really do need something to augment technologies used to understand it. Perhaps gesture technologies will fulfill this role.

How do you see the future of computing? Will gesture technology, coupled with some for of spoken input, eventually replace the keyboard and mouse? How do you think this technology will serve as an accessibility aid? Let me know at