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Input Devices Hardware

A No-Touching 3D Computer Interface 123

Posted by timothy
from the in-development dept.
Justin Schunick points out a video demonstration of a 3D input system which senses the user's hand position, but without requiring the user to touch a controller or wear a trackable position indicator. From the provided description: "Utilizing the theory of electrostatics, we have designed a low-cost human-computer interface device that has the ability to track the position of a user's hand in three dimensions. Physical contact is not required and the user does not need to hold a controller or attach markers to their body. To control the device, the user simply waves their hand above it in the air."
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A No-Touching 3D Computer Interface

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  • Why? a little counter-intuitive, my tablet can do that much better.

    I think it's an awesome idea, but poorly executed examples.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jurily (900488)

      I think it's an awesome idea, but poorly executed examples.

      So what does it do when my hands get tired? Crash my spaceship into the nearest moon?

      • So what does it do when my hands get tired? Crash my spaceship into the nearest moon?

        Can't RTFA at work, but the obvious answer is "you make a gesture that signals you're detaching from the controller".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jurily (900488)

          Can't RTFA at work, but the obvious answer is "you make a gesture that signals you're detaching from the controller".

          A full-blown sign language then? How is that better than a keyboard again?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Because now I can fly my spaceship like those cool ones from Earth Final Conflict. Flailing around like some kind of Idiot lets me do stuff like crash and get captured by hostiles.(And yes, I'm embarrassed to admit I watched that show)
            • by Jurily (900488)

              Ah, I see now. If you're constantly and randomly change your trajectory, the chances of any projectile actually hitting you is absymal.

              • I'm just waiting to see what it looks like to be flying one of those ships at near the speed of sound and have a sneezing fit.
          • Actually, I think a full-blown sign-language would be great, especially for use with cell phone cameras. There are a few obvious benefits, and some not-so-obvious ones:

            (1) people learn international sign language, and it assists in international communication.
            (2) The speed of data entry would be increased greatly.
            (3) It seems to me probable that there would be decreased cost and possibly (if it was done by a designed/dedicated chip) decreased battery usage by using sign lanugage instead of other means
            (4) L

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Jurily (900488)

              (1) people learn international sign language, and it assists in international communication.

              I'm a Hungarian, living in the UK, posting on an American website. Don't tell me about international communication.

              (2) The speed of data entry would be increased greatly.

              Compared to a touchscreen, maybe. Assuming of course the software can translate SL into your native language. Compared to a keyboard, this is a joke. Try coding C in sign language, and report back when they let you out from the mental institute.

              (3) It seems to me probable that there would be decreased cost and possibly (if it was done by a designed/dedicated chip) decreased battery usage by using sign lanugage instead of other means

              You mean a high quality (especially considering #4) camera and a custom-designed and -manufactured chip or recognition software with the associated CPU

              • [snip]

                Fingerprint is not a secret. Repeat that until it sinks in. (They use it to catch criminals because we leave them all over the place, you know.)

                No shit! [thedailywtf.com]

              • I wouldn't concern myself with how this replaces the keyboard. In practical terms, it won't, any more than the mouse did. But a good controller scheme for 3D space is practical, and a gesture system is more or less necessary to make it all work.

                • by Jurily (900488)

                  But a good controller scheme for 3D space is practical, and a gesture system is more or less necessary to make it all work.

                  No, it's not. It looks cool, but only until you're forced to wave around for more than 2 hours continuously. Not to mention the fact that now you're broadcasting to everyone in line of sight, as well as the UI.

            • Or you could take a look at MPEG7 [chiariglione.org]

              This is the kind of stuff it was designed to do
          • Relatively few F16 pilots use a keyboard to control their aircraft.

            On the other hand, remotes -- that might be a different story. Being a proud owner of an Azerothian ROFLcopter, it strikes me that the piloting interface - the mouse + keyboard controls -- are really rather good, and allow surprisingly good, easy control over complex 3D traversal. Could have something there. Although it's clear Blizzard is doing quite well in their current business, some of today's game developers could do a good job moon

        • by sdpuppy (898535)

          "you make a gesture that signals you're detaching from the controller".

          Why is it when I read that I thought that the most appropriate gesture would be a middle finger salute?

      • That's no moon...
      • by davidsyes (765062)

        Apply it to the RealDoll first, then when the space ship is crashing into the moon, the distant-touchers will be mashing as they croon...

      • it doesn't have to be just your hands you know. if you install the device under your flooring, ceiling, and the walls, your whole house can be an interface.

    • by rxan (1424721)

      Nice interface, but how do you select stuff? I mean you can highlight whatever you want, but where's the push/click/activate?

      If they added a bit of gesture recognition, that would be awesome.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by samuX (623423)

        Nice interface, but how do you select stuff? I mean you can highlight whatever you want, but where's the push/click/activate?

        you just slap or double slap your a** to click or double click :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I think it's got some potential for many applications. I have always dreamt of working with CAD appz using something similar to this. I use to do CAD hours upon hours with a thrubbing wrist from captain Carpal. Carpal tunnel really sucks and my left hand isn't as skilled in pressing and moving the mouse around. There may be new injuries as a result of this new type of possible repetive movement. I think combine this with a holograpgic image for 3-d appz and we've got a winner....and add voice recognition fo
  • by pHus10n (1443071) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @09:52AM (#27744927)
    "...the user simply waves their hand above it in the air..." These are not the droids you're looking for.
  • by nani popoki (594111) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:03AM (#27745089) Homepage
    ... then maybe a no-touch interface is not going to work well for me. I found the Theremin to be almost impossible to play because there was no way to get my hand in exactly the same x-y-z coordinate and with the same roll-yaw-pitch attitude (all of which affected the frequency of the oscillator). YMMV, of course.
    • by foniksonik (573572) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:18AM (#27745261) Homepage Journal

      Just needed to turn down the sensitivity a little... like people who put their mouse on super slow tracking vs. those who prefer a quick twitch approach. Personally I'd like a trackpad replacement with this interface, I don't want to have to move my whole arm around. Make it plenty sensitive or rather make the sensor's grid scaled appropriately for the size of the input.

    • Theremin plays YOU!

    • by macxcool (1370409)
      Check out TED.COM [ted.com] if you want to see how its done ;-)

      Amazing.

    • Re:!Theremin (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TaoPhoenix (980487)

      Theramins suk.

      Make this a finger gesture interface. Your wrist is resting, and your fingers can do stuff fairly repeatable.
      (Reboot from BSOD = That Gesture.)

      • by jank1887 (815982)
        I vote for that one to be controlled by a single extended finger. now, which finger to choose...
    • by bughunter (10093)
      Furthermore, there's a lack of precision. A useable touch-free interface must recognize hand gestures, even if just a state toggle ("active/inactive") and a binary command ("mouseup/mousedown") if not for a whole range of gestural commands. This appears to just detect limb position, which will inevitably lead to the kind of HHGTTG situations earning scads of +1 Funny mods ITT.
  • Now we're going to have even worse contortions from the morons on the DDR games in the arcades. I can't believe these insensitive clods!
  • by eatvegetables (914186) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:04AM (#27745107)
    Honey, look at this cool 5ft x 5ft x 5ft mouse pad that I just bought for our laptop!

    Interesting from a tech, nerd perspective I suppose. However, a web cam and a computer vision gesture control app can produce the same effect much more efficiently.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by GerardAtJob (1245980)

      But hey... it's cheap and you could use it for cybersex ;) Never underestimate the power of porn!

    • by imgod2u (812837)

      As with all things, this proof of concept isn't practical but it could lead to better devices when miniaturized. Just think of an iPhone but you don't have to smudge the screen. Or a Wii hooked up to your TV, but you don't need a nunchuck.

    • A webcam can't track with that kind of 3d accuracy. Especially not without sticking some kind of marker(s) on your hand. Also, it looks like this method for tracking could easily be expanded to a whole desk, wall or floor just by adding more sensors (they seem to be spaced about 1 foot apart in each direction)

      Seamless multi-camera tracking is definitely not trivial.

  • Couple this technology with 3-D glasses and a large monitor or three and you could really start getting immersed in your video games. Maybe I could map certain hand-movements to specific hotkeys in WoW and imitate my shaman stormstriking or earth-shocking.

    Home-made VR, anyone?
    • Couple this technology with 3-D glasses and a large monitor or three and you could really start getting immersed in your video games. Maybe I could map certain hand-movements to specific hotkeys ...

      s/games/porn/g

  • by worip (1463581) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:07AM (#27745131)
    Your arms are going to get tired very quickly using this interface... Maybe we should rather work on perfecting those mind control interfaces.
    • by Fred_A (10934) <fred@noSpAM.fredshome.org> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:18AM (#27745245) Homepage

      Your arms are going to get tired very quickly using this interface...

      Of course not, now you don't have to hold that heavy 5 gram light pen. No more gorilla arm syndrome !
      This guy is a genius !

      Um, wait.

      Do the people who keep on re-inventing those interfaces actually ever ponder why each previous instance failed ?

      • Because the tech is damn cool! Sure it won't replace your mouse, but there are still scenarios where it's useful too.

      • by cstdenis (1118589)

        This kind of interface isn't very practical for general use computing -- it isn't going to replace your mouse.

        But it can be useful for several special applications were a keyboard and mouse is impractical or the use is short enough that arms getting tired isn't an issue.

    • by jfmonte (1336577)
      mind control interfaces will turn us all into lazy fat blobs! you mark my words on that! ....well, it happened to me.... IT DID!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        So if they existed in reality, the Jedi would look more like Jabba the Hut?

        There are things, that you just can't unthink...

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          So if they existed in reality, the Jedi would look more like Jabba the Hut?

          There are things, that you just can't unthink...

          Hello, person with a thought or memory they wish they could erase. Let me introduce you to my friends, Jose Cuervo and Don Julio. They can help you out.

          • I had to google that up, to understand that they both are tequilas.

            Thank you, but I'm somehow immune to ever having a memory loss, or vomiting, from alcohol. Believe me. I've tried it.
            I'm also immune to cannabis. Smoked a large pure joint (no tobacco, because I'm allergic to it) on my first an last time, and what changed was exactly... *nothing*.

            Yes, I know... It's a gift, but also a curse.

            • by Chris Burke (6130)

              Thank you, but I'm somehow immune to ever having a memory loss, or vomiting, from alcohol. Believe me. I've tried it

              No vomiting? I've had cases where vomiting was the only thing preventing me from getting alcohol poisoning. So did you end up in the hospital, or were you just not trying hard enough? ;)

              Anyway, while I can believe you wouldn't suffer from memory loss, I assure you that you are not immune to the brain-cell-killing effects of alcohol. It's not targeted or anything, so it may take a long while

              • No. Well. To me it becomes impossible to pour a glass into my mouth, long before I feel a urge to vomit. And it two ways: First the psychological one: Somehow my brain starts to block thoughts about it. And then the motor-related one. ^^

                You are right about the brain-cell-killing one. But, well, I'm not too worried, because after my tries, I'm just not into drinking much anymore. 3 well done Mojitos, and I'm happy. 4, and the curve of happiness falls again. Additionally, stupidity is bliss for me. I always c

            • by anarche (1525323)

              I had to google that up, to understand that they both are tequilas.

              Thank you, but I'm somehow immune to ever having a memory loss, or vomiting, from alcohol. Believe me. I've tried it.

              If you had to look those two up; you haven't tried hard enough.

  • This reminds of when Marty went to the Future to the Cafe 80's and the kids when finding out the Wild Gunman required use of their hands said it was like a babies game.
  • "Physical contact is not required and the user does not need to hold a controller or attach markers to their body."

    SOMEONE has forgotten the fact that porn has been the source and promoter of about every successful web tech to date.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:14AM (#27745209) Journal

    For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive--you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program.

    From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:18AM (#27745251)

    A lot of these technologies are really waiting more for computing power to increase to a level where it can support it comfortable, more then new ideas on how to get it to work.

    We know how to take 2 camera and generate a 3d model of what the cameras see. The problem is processing speed.

  • by Zerth (26112) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:21AM (#27745291)

    Except with electrostatics instead of heterodyning?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by artg (24127)
      No, with USB instead of audio. The measurement is electrostatic either way, but in the Theremin the capacitance change alters the frequency of an RF oscillator. By mixing (ok, heterodyning) against a fixed oscillator, a varying audio tone is produced.

      In this case, it's still measuring capacitance in some form, though with several sensor plates to provide more axes. But the result - however it influences the circuit - is generated as a stream of data over USB. It might even use a bunch of oscillators jus
  • by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:22AM (#27745299) Journal

    I don't know about everyone else, but holding my hands anywhere in free space takes quite a bit of energy unless they are hanging at my sides. The reason the keyboard and mouse or other touch surfaces work well is because they allow a person to rest their limbs in an unnatural position.

    So I am not sure about anything that doesn't allow a person to rest... it'd be like using a whiteboard all day long, and that is quite tiring!

    • Yeah. Somebody forgot to add the "gorillahands" tag.

      -- It's like a gorilla arm with jazz hands. (TM)

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by lxs (131946)

      Never become a painter, or a plasterer, or any job that involves actual manual labor. Also, don't work out. God forbid you should get tired.

      • by ADRA (37398)

        Not terribly applicable, since all said professions use large arbitrary motions, but I do feel for the human statues. I think they'd be in the same boat as the users of said system.

  • This exact thing was done by Josh Smith at MIT in the 90s (see Geocities era page here [mit.edu]). His work was commercialized by Motorolla in their e-field sensing chip [freescale.com].
  • yumm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Canazza (1428553) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:27AM (#27745355)

    If I were using this on a desktop, I wouldn't mind wearing a small button on my hand to allow me to click easier (squeezing your thumb and index finger is less effort than moving your whole arm forward) and maybe have a small brace to rest my wrist on, one that gimbals around, to save my arm from being tired.

    If it could be made simpler and integrated with mobile devices I could see it begin a winner though. Tiny mice and track pads are horrible, Touch screens have always been my prefered mobile input device and one that lets me use the computer with my fingers without smudging the screen would make me happy :D
    Do I sense a Theramin app for the iPhone 5G?

  • No touching (Score:4, Funny)

    by Verdatum (1257828) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @10:41AM (#27745531)
    Who else read this headline and immediately thought of Arrested Development?
    "No touching!"
    • by tcopeland (32225)

      > Who else read this headline and immediately thought of Arrested Development?

      "What have we always said is the most important thing?"
      "Umm... breakfast?"
      "Family!"

      and

      "Like I've always said, there's money in the banana stand."
      "Well, not any more. I burned it down."

    • They don't allow you to have bees in here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FiloEleven (602040)

      *raises hand*

      We're not the only ones, either:

      from the in-development dept.

    • Michael (on jail pay phone): ... and tell Gob I've got a nice hard cot with his name on it.
      Lucille: You'd do that to your own brother?
      Michael: I said *cot*.

  • I can use my comp without touching it-
    No touching it!
    No touching it!
    I can use my comp without touching it-
    No touching it!
    No touching it!
    Look at me, look at me, hands in the air like its good to be alive
    And I'm a dumb script kiddie, exploiting flaws in your security!
    I can use you as another spambot,
    I can make you my new zombie!
    All of this with a flick of my wrist in the airspace over my PC!
    • From the comments above, none of the posers have had to swing a framing hammer for 8 hours a day for six days at a time.

      Not using it because your arm might get tired? Talk about lazy.

      Though I do like the idea of having the mouse clicker on the thumb and forefinger as suggested by one of the other posters.

  • Please don't bring back the U-Force [i-mockery.com]! It was the only peripheral worse than the Power Glove. Why don't you stay dead you bastard input device?
  • Man, this could be sweet. I for one cringe every time a colleague of mine comes to my office and touches my LCD screen to show me something. I really do. And when they leave, I pick up a towel to wipe it until I'm sure there's no trace left.
    Yeah, I guess I'm weird...
  • The master said it first:

    A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wavebands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive --- you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers. Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the co

  • I'm at work so I can't view the video, but I found something that might be similar that you can do yourself (if you have soldering/wiring/programming experience)

    http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-3D-Controller/ [instructables.com]

    Pretty cool stuff.

  • First I want to see what is actually under the cloth, second I want to know if he is just using a multiple pickup therimin, one for each axis.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theremin [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fantastic Lad (198284)

      First I want to see what is actually under the cloth, second I want to know if he is just using a multiple pickup therimin, one for each axis.

      I balked at the cloth as well, but stuck out the video to the last quarter, where they pulled it back and gave a short tour of the guts of the system.

      Looks pretty simple. I don't think any new discoveries have been made, but rather the device is a clever bit of engineering using known electrical properties. Applied and scaled correctly, it holds some neat possibili

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      You mean our new-fangled devices really *are* gonna make those spooky 50's sci-fi sounds after all?

  • I think I would hate this possibly even more than touch screens (if that's possible). What's wrong with having buttons? Am I the only one who enjoys the feedback of a good clicky button?
  • Theremin not Theramin ... :/
  • I think this is an amazing project, especially for college seniors. Remember it's only a proof of concept, I'm sure it can be made smaller and more aesthetically pleasing.
  • I was looking at this as a replacement for WAY more expensive systems like OptiTrack [naturalpoint.com] or the Flock of Birds. It's a bit limited in that it does not seem to let you "point" at a certain things...the video looked like it created a "bump" roughly where your hand is.

    I wonder if you could refine such a system using electrostatic sensors alone to resolve individual fingers and hand orientation.

    With some refinement and augmentation from a single camera, it could turn into a gesture recognition system for VR or a v

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Is anybody out there working on FoSS mocap? I'm kind of surprised nobody has done it with markers yet, which seems relatively easy on the scale of some things which have been done. But then maybe there's just still so much money in it that it only makes sense to sell the software. The PS2 EyeToy showed what was possible with one mediocre camera, and processing power has blossomed since...

  • Isn't this just a theramin with a third axis?

  • Feedback is why we're good with our hands. Waving them in the air without touching something for feedback denies us our monkey skills in moving our hands to control something. Like a theremin, which doesn't rock, because it's handflapping, not manipulating something.

    I don't see what's such a big deal to touch something. How about a wireless ball that pulls apart into two hemispheres connected to a toothpick-thin telescoping segmented rod (like a car radio antenna) by a 1mm ball joint at the center of each c

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I've seen a lot of people complaining about theremins and proving they have entirely missed the point. The instrument is played by audio feedback. You want to play a theremin like you play a guitar, but it's not that kind of instrument. Incidentally, let me know how retuning your guitar in a microsecond works out for you.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        I retune my guitar in a microsecond by bending the strings, which I feel with my hands as I play them.

        That's why physical instruments are different from gestural ones: that physical feedback connects lots of our body to the instrument, not just our ears and our motor cortex. Humans have a lot of body language to use.

  • If you are interested in this then google the Motorola chip MC33794 (E-Field Sensor). They do cost $3.00 each. Does the same thing and can be sized to a livingroom size system. I bet the Pic chip costs more than $3.00.
  • It seems to me that the history of UI development, from command line to primitive windowing systems, to modern windowing UIs (with a side trip thru Jurassic Park's 3d "Unix" UI), and now 3D, has been all about making computers present a view of the world that is more like what we experience natively. That is, a 3D environment that we can move around in and manipulate, with intuitive results.

    I think ultimately, 3D immersive UIs are where we're going. OTOH, the problem with the infant implementations of

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