February 24, 2009 For all the advances in computing and display technology over the years it’s a little disappointing that the main way we interact with them is still largely keyboard and mouse based, or for gaming consoles controller based. The Wii’s motion controller has shown that the traditional ways of interaction serve as a barrier to many people and that new ways of interaction offer up a whole new range of possibilities. We also know that there are people hard at work on delivering whiz-bang new Minority Report style glove-controlled interfaces, but researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut have gone one step further with the iPoint 3D – a system that allows people to communicate with a 3D display through simple hand gestures – without touching it and without 3D glasses or a data glove.
The iPoint 3D uses a recognition device called the HHI Handtracker, which can be suspended from the ceiling above the user or integrated in a coffee table. The Handtracker contains two built-in cameras to track the user’s gestures in real time and transmits the information to a computer running software that interprets the gestures. The system is completely contactless and requires no special markers – it responds as soon as someone steps in front of the display and moves their hands.
The system is seen as appealing to gamers - and a 3D two player version of Pong is included with the device - while in the office an architect can peruse the latest set of construction drawings and view them from all angles by gesture control. But the real advantage of the system is in areas where contact between the user and the device is not desirable, such as in an operating theater, where a surgeon can manipulate scans of the operating subject without compromising sterility – or getting blood all over everything. The system could also be used not only to control a display, but also as a means of controlling other devices or appliances. Someone kneading pastry in the kitchen, whose hands are covered in dough, can turn down the boiling potatoes by waving a finger without leaving sticky marks on the stove.
Hopefully it won’t be long before the days of searching high and low for that lost remote control are a thing of the past – assuming you don’t go leaving your fingers down the back of the couch.
The iPoint 3D system comprises the HHI Handtracker, HHI Workbench 3D software, 3D Pong and a 42-inch 3D display from Philips. It will be presented at CeBIT in Hanover from March 3-8.