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Microsoft SoundWave: It's like Kinect, but skips the cameras

The technology uses a laptop's speaker and microphone to sense in-air gestures. Wave your hands, scroll the page.

A look at SoundWave in action.
A look at SoundWave in action. Screen Capture by Don Reisinger/CNET

Microsoft has already come up with a neat way to interpret motion by way of a camera. Now it's using sound to accomplish the same goal.

The SoundWave technology recently unveiled by Microsoft Research allows users to control the software on their computers with only the movement of their hands. However, unlike the company's Kinect, which uses cameras to achieve that functionality, SoundWave is able to pick up motion based on sound.

According to Microsoft, SoundWave relies on a speaker and microphone to work. The technology emits an inaudible tone from the speakers that is interrupted when people move their hands in front of the computer. Based on the change in the frequency of the tone, SoundWave is able to "infer various gestures."

Since the technology is under the control of Microsoft Research, it's not ready for public use. However, in a video demonstrating SoundWave, it appears to work as described and responds quite quickly to movement.

Still, there are some questions for the PC-only technology. When using SoundWave, researchers in the video were quite close to their screen. What happens when a person is farther away? Also, the technology's requirement of both a microphone and speaker might make one wonder how the components need to be set and where they must be placed to get optimal service.

Regardless, it's a neat idea. Click here to learn more about SoundWave and see the technology in action.