Despite recent advances in gestural interfaces, we’re nowhere near the Minority Report-style future we were promised. Sure, technologies like Kinect and Leap Motion make for some impressive, sci-fi-seeming projects, but when was the last time you saw somebody waving their hands in front of a computer orsmartphone in the wild?
That day may come sooner than you think.
SideSwipe is a clever new approach to 3-D gesture control from researchers at the University of Washington. It uses the device’s own wireless signal transmissions to detect nearby hand gestures, effectively turning the 3-D space around your phone into an interface. It even works when your phone is in your pocket.
“Today’s smartphones already include multiple antennas for spatial diversity and to support multiple wireless standards,” says Matt Reynolds, a UW computer science and engineering professor who helped lead the research. “We expect that the simple broadbandreceivers that we have developed could be integrated with existing antennas, and the detection of reflected power could be built-in to the phone’s chipset by the chipset manufacturer.”
Since SideSwipe doesn’t rely on processor-hogging resources like the phone’s camera or internal sensors, it lets the device effectively “listen” for its owner’s gestural commands at all times without sapping the battery. In doing so, SideSwipe removes the biggest obstacle phone manufacturers face when it comes to including persistent gestural control in mobile devices: preserving battery life. For most people, gee-whiz functionality like this just isn’t important enough to justify the power it would normally consume.