Print 13 comment(s) - last by StevoLincolnit.. on Oct 12 at 3:14 AM

The Kinect-based system could enable game devs to turn tables or other flat surface into touch "controllers"

Pinch-to-zoom; two fingered swipe; the scissors gesture -- our fingers are marvelous at multi-touch gestures on tablets or other devices.  But what if you could take that concept and add multi-touch gestures to any surface -- no capactive touch screen necessary.

Purdue University Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Niklas Elmqvist demonstrated the patent-pending system that uses Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Kinect visualization device and can detect hand posture with 98 percent accuracy.

Using the Kinect sensor, which uses imaging technologies to determine the position of objects in 3D space, the new software transforms everyday surfaces into virtual multi-touch screens.  Comments co-author and Purdue Mechanical Engineering Professor Karthik Ramani, "We project a computer screen on any surface, just a normal table covered with white paper.  The camera sees where your hands are, which fingers you are pressing on the surface, tracks hand gestures and recognizes whether there is more than one person working at the same time."

Using a proprietary computer model of the human hand, the researchers can use the pixel processing power of the Kinect sensor to pick out finger location, where the hand is in relation to the surface, and left vs. right hand.  Comments Professor Elmqvist, "We can isolate different parts of a hand or finger to show how far they are from the surface.  We can see which fingers are touching the surface. With this technology, you could potentially call up a menu by positioning your hand just above the surface."

Minority Report touchscreen
Purdue researchers have developed virtual multi-touch, much like that depicted in the movie Minority Report.

The professors are currently working to refine the accuracy of their method, which was presented in a research paper at the Association for Computing Machinery Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (ACM UIST 2012) in Cambridge, Mass. 

The technology could be used to add inexpensive multitouch to a variety of traditional electronics devices including TVs, computers, gaming consoles, and appliances.  Comments Professor Elmqvist, "Imagine having giant iPads everywhere, on any wall in your house or office, every kitchen counter, without using expensive technology.  You can use any surface, even a dumb physical surface like wood. You don't need to install expensive LED displays and touch-sensitive screens."
hand model
The researchers use a proprietary multi-touch hand model. [Image Source: Purdue]

It certainly is an exciting possibility to think about, and Microsoft is surely pleased that this is all made possible with its proprietary, patent-protected Kinect sensor.

Sources: ACM [Paper], Purdue University [Press Release]

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RE: Touch vs Mouse
By lolmuly on 10/10/2012 5:38:09 PM , Rating: 4
Using your finger is more natural than using a mouse...

Maybe I differ from most people, but i disagree entirely. Dragging my finger along a screen feels cumbersome, and your finger sticks to the screen constantly (like any other piece of glass) leaving grease trails everywhere and obscuring your vision.

I use a pen tablet for 99% of my GUI interaction. In real life I have yet to see a touch screen that recognizes your gestures more than half the time.

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By StevoLincolnite on 10/10/2012 6:20:23 PM , Rating: 3
I agree.
Nothing has been able to beat the venerable mouse in terms of accuracy or speed.
However, with that said it's not perfect for all applications, you are not exactly going to be using a mouse on your mobile phone or an ATM.

Even Kinect wasn't perfect, it suffers from latency issues and you need a fair bit of space for it work optimally. With that said it's still amazing technology and it may just be limited by the processing capability of Kinect and the Xbox itself, hopefully we can get holographic gaming "Dens" like you do on the movie "Gamer" one day. :)

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By FITCamaro on 10/10/2012 9:26:54 PM , Rating: 2
Much of the Kinect's latency is from the fact that it has to process the data it "sees" on the Xbox which has other processing going on as well. They cut out the onboard processing to save money on the cost of the Kinect sensor.

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By ET on 10/11/2012 2:58:00 AM , Rating: 2
It would be interesting to see a mouse vs. finger speed test. At least when playing Plants vs. Zombies (which I have on my phone and on my PC) the touch interface feels faster and more natural.

I think that the issue is with certain types of interaction, which is why lolmuly talked about dragging and not just selecting.

But I think that the problem with touch on large surfaces is mainly fatigue.

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By StevoLincolnite on 10/12/2012 3:14:51 AM , Rating: 2
No. Not a silly casual game like Plants vs Zombies.

Try testing it with a game like StarCraft 2 where you can actually measure APM (Actions Per Minuit.)

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By inperfectdarkness on 10/11/2012 3:20:29 AM , Rating: 2
thirded. i prefer a stylus for mobile applications where the screen is small. smaller tool = higher accuracy.

i think that gaming will never evolve to use this new technology. it already appears that people prefer not to play FPS's with a gun peripheral, so i can't imagine that pointing directly at the screen with your finger is going to be any more enjoyable.

the mouse will never die.

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By Motoman on 10/11/2012 12:21:27 PM , Rating: 2
I have noticed over the past couple decades that you can ascertain someone's technological aptitude by seeing what their preferred input device is.

Mouse = high aptitude
Trackball = medium aptitude
Touchpad = low aptitude
Touchscreen = essentially no aptitude

There's a level of device interaction abstraction needed at each level, and the more literal your interaction has to be (a touchscreen being as literal as it can get, with no abstraction at all), the less aptitude you have for working with computers.

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By RufusM on 10/11/2012 12:26:04 PM , Rating: 2
What if you have a touch surface (not a screen) on the keyboard or Kinect style wrist band that has the latency and resolution of a mouse? At some point the tech is going to get there.

For me the mouse works OK, but it's just the best solution available now. Even the most ergonomic mice require that your arm reach out for the mouse for each use. Every reach for the mouse puts repetitive stress on your arm, wrist, etc. I haven't found a mouse that is ergonomic enough to not produce repetitive stress aches at the end of the work day.

RE: Touch vs Mouse
By Apone on 10/11/2012 12:27:54 PM , Rating: 2
Regarding preference, I honestly find it confusing; Many Macbook and Windows notebook owners I know all say they can’t comfortably use it and absolutely refuse to use the built-in touchpad. Then Apple develops a bigger Macbook mousepad with gesture support and it’s (apparently) welcomed with open arms by the notebook community.
Me personally, I am comfortable using either platform and I welcome new technologies such this giant multi-touch device technology. Guess it all comes down to application and preference. Like the other people have posted, the tried & true mouse/keyboard continues to be a solid platform across the board while gesturing might be difficult in a FPS game and a stylus might be needed for some tablet applications.

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