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Hand gestures on the horizon for Microsoft Virtual Earth

Hand gesture videos with snazzy graphical interfaces are total geek candy. We can't get enough. This morning we got a peek at what Microsoft Research is up to with Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Microsoft showed off one of its famous videos at this morning's keynote speech at the Gartner IT Expo conference in San Francisco. Eric Horvitz, principal researcher at Microsoft Research rolled a clip of some gesture recognition technology that looked like something out of Minority Report.

One of the coolest uses for this was maneuvering around Microsoft Virtual Earth using your hands. Microsoft showed off two methods, the first using a projector that gleams down on a tabletop. Using your hands, you can pull the map around and zoom in and out by pinching, in a similar fashion to what Apple has done with the iPhone.

The other method, and likely the way we'll see this technology implemented first, was using a USB Webcam. The camera will pick up the ovals you make by making an "O" with your thumb and index finger and lets users navigate the map using their fingers. We grabbed a quick video from one of the projectors and have embedded it below.

How long before we see this technology make its way to your computer? According to Horvitz, it's a few years out. Microsoft and Sony have already implemented gesture recognition in video games. It's not long before it makes its way to Web apps.