Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Power in the Palm of Your Hands
Newcastle University (10/08/12) 

Researchers at Newcastle University and Microsoft Research Cambridge (MSR) have developed Digits, a wristwatch-sized sensor that tracks users' hands to enable them to remotely control devices. "The Digits sensor doesn’t rely on any external infrastructure so it is completely mobile," says Newcastle's David Kim. The current prototype includes an infrared (IR) camera, IR laser-line generator, IR diffuse illuminator, and an inertial-measurement unit track. "We wanted users to be able to interact spontaneously with their electronic devices using simple gestures without even having to reach for them," Kim says. "Can you imagine how much easier it would be if you could answer your mobile phone while it’s still in your pocket or buried at the bottom of your bag?" The researchers say their biggest challenge was extrapolating natural-looking hand motions from a sparse sampling of the key points sensed by the camera. "We had to understand our own body parts first before we could formulate their workings mathematically," says Newcastle's Shahram Izadi. The Digits prototype, which features electronics that are self-contained on the user's wrist, optically image all of the user's hand, enabling freehand interactions in a mobile setting.


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