The Mac App Store is a great place to find apps and tools made for OS X. Occasionally, you find a gem in the free section that takes no time making its way to the top of the lists. This is certainly the case with Flutter, an app that utilizes your webcam as a gesture-based media controller.
Flutter promises to be Kinect for Mac. While your webcam may not do a great job of reading heat signatures, determining depth of field, or outlining your skeletal structure, it does enable you to input gestures into your computer. The right software can interpret hand signals, track facial expressions, and even recognize you by your face.
The Kinect really changed the way many of us geeks thought about our computers. Being able to control your system through gestures rather than a mouse is certainly interesting, though this technology is really just in its infancy at the present moment. There are some projects out there (including one from Kevin Connolly) that could eventually make it easier to control your computer from across the room.
Can you do this type of stuff with Flutter? Well, kind of. You can control your media player and do some basic commands. Play, pause, previous, next, etc. are currently implemented and they work very well. Coming soon are volume controls and extended app support for YouTube and some other popular media-based sites.
Currently, Flutter works with the following programs.
With a motion of your hand, you can switch between content and pause it. This isn’t exactly a revolutionary new interface that will replace your mouse, but it’s a start. It’s also available for free, which makes it a very easy download.
What About Windows?
If you’re reading this and wondering if this is available for Windows, it is. If you, like me, don’t feel that spending money on a Kinect is a particularly necessary investment, you can download Flutter for Windows 7 right now for free.
It works the same way on Windows as it does for Mac; it’s just not exactly the best option available for Windows users since the Kinect SDK has been out and there are plenty of excellent resources to do even more with it than Flutter makes possible. It is, however, the cheapest option and currently one of the more impressive webcam-based control apps you can pick up without using your credit card.
Will My Webcam Need to Be on All the Time?
Your webcam will need to be activated and monitored by the software in order for it to work. That means that it will need to be active as long as you want to have the ability to control media playback through gestures. This isn’t exactly an app of choice for folks away from an outlet for extended periods, though it doesn’t eat away at your system resources too heavily. I found it to be about as greedy as VLC, which may or may not have an impact on your system’s performance.
Do you think you might enjoy Flutter? Download, give it a try, and tell us what you think.