Microsoft Research, along with Cambridge and Newcastle Universities, is in the process of developing what it calls “Microsoft Digits.” This technology, in conjunction with an attachable device, will render a human hand in 3D. This effect will be unique in that most traditional 3D imaging of a human hand requires the user to wear a glove. However, Microsoft has fine-tuned the process, taking advantage of Kinect technology to such an extent that it will be able to produce a perfect 3D rendition of a human hand.
This technology is the result of Microsoft’s research team attempting to devise a device that could have a business application as well as compatibility with touch screen technology. With obvious ingenuity, the designers of Microsoft Digits implanted optical imaging into the device, which attaches to a user’s wrist, and thereby relays the movement of a hand into a 3D screen image. Amazingly, the image is a perfect replication of the user’s hand that can be used in conjunction with the next generation of touch-free computing.
I should note, however, that the current prototype of Microsoft Digits uses off the shelf hardware and therefore is bulky and very primitive looking. In this prototype, the researchers are using a simple IR laser and inexpensive infrared camera that adds to the bulkiness of the hand device. However, in the future, researchers are hoping that the device’s appearance and size will change to the extent that it will be comparable to one of today’s watches. If they are successful, it will make this device more commercially desirable and easier for consumers to use.
In developing Microsoft Digits, researchers found that their main problem was to get the device to mimic the movements of an actual hand. In order to accomplish this feat, the researchers had to study their own hands and how their hands functioned in real-life situations. The researchers were then able to copy the hand movements to a kinetic model, which was tweaked until all movements, including fingers, were moving perfectly. With this accomplishment under their belt, researchers are now working on improvements that will allow the technology to be applied to smartphones and tablets with the hope that one day we will be able to answer our phones without removing the devices from our pockets or handbags.
I know for myself this would be a great improvement since struggling to retrieve a phone or device from the inside of a woman’s purse can be extremely frustrating. In fact, just yesterday we found ourselves at a meeting that required the audience to be silent in order to hear the speaker, when my wife ‘s cellphone started ringing. She was terribly embarrassed as she grappled through her handbag attempting to locate her phone so that she could silence it. Though I am sure that others have also experienced this type of situation, when trying to quash the ringer, it seems like it takes us forever to get to our phone.
That is why I think that having Microsoft Digits designed to be worn in a fashion similar to today’s watch would be a blessing. I know for many of us who occasionally show up late for a business meeting, it would save us from the confusion and/or embarrassment of hunting through our briefcase or handbag in search of the needed device.
So what do you think? Is this something that we all can take advantage of? Please share your thoughts with us.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Ctd 2005