From the Xbox Kinect to the the new Samsung Galaxy S5, devices are becoming more hands-off than ever before thanks to gesture-based controls. Now, a new technology could give you Magneto-like control over your smart devices.
So far, it's been necessary to have a line of sight with the devices you want to control by waving your hands in the air. Even new technology from Elliptic Labs that debuted at CES 2014, which uses ultrasound to translate gestures into actions, requires close user proximity to the device.
The new prototype gesture-recognition system -- known as "AllSee" -- built by scientists at the University of Washington however, allows gestures to be recognized by electronic devices even if they're out of sight, such as a phone in a pocket. To do this, the gadget, which attaches to existing electronic devices, senses changes to the TV signals that are in the air around us all the time. It also uses these same signals to power the device, which means that AllSee is small and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
"This is the first gesture recognition system that can be implemented for less than a dollar and doesn't require a battery," said Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. "You can leverage TV signals both as a source of power and as a source of gesture recognition."
Although the researchers tested the device on smartphones, they believe it could also be used to control other electronic devices as they become "smart" and join the "Internet of Things." This means that you may soon be able to wave your hands while sitting on your couch to control your thermostat, music, lights, or maybe even your pet robot.
In their testing, the researchers found that the technology responded to eight different gestures and took less than 80 microseconds -- 1,000 times faster than blinking an eye -- to translate to gestures into phone commands.
In case you're worried that you'd accidentally change the channel while you're watching "House of Cards" by scratching an itch on your head, the AllSee developers have got you covered. They can rig the tech to work with a "wakeup" gesture so that your friend that talks with her hands all the time won't cause the connected devices to run amok when she visits.
The technology will debut publicly at the Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation conference in Seattle which runs from April 2-4.
Want to see AllSee in action? Just wave your hand over the play button below (and then click it using your mouse -- the future's not here quite yet, silly).