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Surprising Science

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Keyboards and mice are about to get some competition from wearable sensors that allow users to control electronics with gestures.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Microsoft recently unveiled a prototype of a mobile device called Digits, which, when worn on a user’s hand, allows them to control computers and other equipment with a series of gestures. The device involves an infrared laser and camera-based sensor that measures the user’s hand and creates a 3D model, which then interprets what the actual hand is doing. Unlike data gloves, which were cumbersome and never really took off commercially, the designers hope to “reduce Digits to the size of a watch that can be worn all the time…We want users to be able to interact spontaneously with their electronic devices using simple gestures and not even have to reach for their devices.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Some possible applications for Digits include the ability to change the volume on a TV, to enter numbers on an imaginary keypad, and to use the hand as a virtual gun in video games. However, one researcher wonders how reliable the product is: “How accurately does the camera need to be calibrated? What happens if it gets knocked about…How comfortable is it?” The Microsoft team admits Digits is still a long way from market.

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