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"Airwriting" glove turns arm-waving into text messaging

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February 28, 2013

In the airwriting system, a sensor-equipped glove is used to identify letters drawn in the...

In the airwriting system, a sensor-equipped glove is used to identify letters drawn in the air by the wearer, which are then converted into digital text

If you’re one of the many people who hate poking at the tiny virtual keys on smartphone keyboards, then you might like the experimental “airwriting” glove system created by a team of computer scientists at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. When the glove’s wearer draws letters in the air with their hand, the system can identify which letters are being drawn. Those letters are converted into digital text, which could then be input into an email, text message, or any other type of mobile app.

The glove is able to detect hand movements via integrated accelerometers and gyroscopes. That data is wirelessly transmitted to a computer, which starts by using pattern recognition software to determine if the movements are actually the result of airwriting, or if the user is simply doing something such as cooking.

Once it’s determined that letters are indeed being drawn, the computer then sets about identifying the individual letters. The program incorporates statistical models of the unique signal patterns for every letter in the alphabet, and can account for differences in individual writing styles. It can also recognize approximately 8,000 words (as long as they’re drawn in all-capital letters), along with complete sentences.

So far, the system has an error rate of 11 percent – that drops to three percent, however, once it picks up on a specific user’s style of airwriting.

Doctoral student Christoph Amma, who developed the technology, now hopes to miniaturize the sensors to the point that the glove could be replaced by something less impractical to everyday use, such as a wrist band. Alternatively, he also envisions the hardware being incorporated into a smartphone – in that way, a single hand-held device (the phone) could be used both to detect hand movements, and to process the data.

Airwriting technology could additionally be used to interface with mixed-reality devices such as Google Glass, claims Amma, eliminating the need for any extra device with a touchscreen or virtual keyboard.

Source: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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