Computable Minds -

The gestural Interface of Minority Report wasn't a new idea

Posted on: Jun, 11th 2010
Tom Cruise at Minority Report using a gestural interface
Do you remember that futuristic movie called Minority Report? In this movie appears Tom Cruise controlling a computer making gestures with both hands. This an idea that today is quite impressive but, really, wasn't nothing new in the 2002 when appears this film, in fact in that times it was possible make this without the need of using gloves.

Practically since the first computer was invented the scientist has been investigating new interfaces to improve the interaction between human and machines. One of this interfaces is the use of our gestures to achieve, that an operating system, game or any other software make those that we want to do. This idea was emerged from a lot of advances developed in the years 60s and in the 80s appears the first systems that work at time real. Specifically in 1983 was patented the first glove that recognized gestures, the "Digital Data Entry Glove" developed by the Dr. Gary Grimes at Bell Laboratories.

Hand manipulating 3D objects with a glove Here we can see another glove, the VPL DataGlove developed by Thomas Zimmerman at 1987, using it with a Macintosh 128K. It had fiber optic cables that emitted light at the extremes of the fingers like the gloves of Minority Report.

Below we can see a promotional video of the Power Glove: Simplified inexpensive version of the previous glove (VPL DataGlove) created for the game console of 8 bits of Nintendo, that was not very precise and was a failure.

Watch on Youtube

Usually, this kind of systems with gloves or without gloves and using a camera, is quite unknown, since still have not been commercialized out of the industry of animation and videogame.

This situation causes that every time someone publish a new about a new system, for example these, the Steven Spielberg movie is named as precursor of this idea and the topic is treated like it was the first time that someone make this.

On the other hand, at the universities and research centers, is something well-known. In fact when I was at the university I made for a subject of artificial vision a software of hand tracking, without the need of gloves. If you search "hand tracking" in Youtube you will see that appear more than 2000 results, most of them of people showing their systems.

Although the hand tracking is only one part of the problem. To make work a gestural interface of this type , the hand have to be detected, separated from background and the tracking have to be made. This means determine the direction of the movement of the hand, to avoid search it in the whole image in the next detection. At last, the gesture of the hand have to be recognized.

To solve each one of this problems exists several techniques and usually appears new ones and normally for it interpretation it's required high level of mathematics.

I don't know the reason that avoid that this type of software is not still in the market for the computer users, since the commercialized systems in videogame consoles like Wii and the Playstation EyeToy, have been had a lot of success.

Quizá sea debido a que es más caro que un ratón o a que consume demasiados recursos.

Maybe it's because it's expensive comparing it with a mouse or for the amount of resources it needs.

Don't have a lot of sense that a computer, instead of use its resources to make more fast that think that we want do, uses this resources to understand what we want.

What do you think?

Do you like play videogames with this kind of interface? Would you like write with the sign language? Do you think that is more easy for someone that don't use a mouse? Do you think that is comfortable? Do you think that is a nonsense?

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