09/10/2012 11:26 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Microsoft Research unveils new Digits gesture sensor

Researchers have demoed a sensor that will allow you to control devices like televisions and consoles with the wave of a hand.

Boffins at Microsoft Research and Newcastle University have come up with a revolutionary new way of tracking 3D movement of the hand.

Microsoft Research and Newcastle University students have demoed "Digits" - a revolutionary 3D sensor

The magic is achieved via a sensor which is worn on the wrist, a bit like a watch - and detects the wearer's finger movements. Such a device will eliminate the need for all manner of remote controls (TV etc.) and console gamepads.

This innovative technology is the product of extensive research from testers at Microsoft Research and Newcastle
University - and has the working name "Digits". If such a notion sounds somewhat sci-fi, it's because it is - if you
think back to former-dabbling's in 3D worlds you may recall virtual reality (and other faded glamour). Unlike virtual
reality - whose very premise seems strangely dated - Digits leaves the user's entire hand free to interact freely without clunky data gloves.

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The Digits prototype houses all of its electronics needed for sensing hand movements on the user's wrist. David Kim (Microsoft Research Fellow and co-author of the project) explains: "The Digits sensor doesn't rely on external
infrastructure, which means users are not bound to a fixed space. They can interact while moving from room to room or running down the street. This finally takes 3-D interaction outside the living room."

Digits main hardware components.

How the technology works

To enable 3D interaction virtually anywhere, Digits had to be lightweight, consume little power, and have the potential to be as small and comfortable as a watch.

At the same time, Digits had to deliver superior gesture sensing and "understand" the human hand, from wrist orientation to the angle of each finger joint, so that interaction would not be limited to 3D points in space.

Digits had to understand what the hand is trying to express - even while inside a pocket.

We've already been given a glimpse of the future with Kinect (for Xbox) - and indeed this technology acted as something of a starting point for the research team. But we get the feeling that Digits - in its current form - is only the tip of the iceberg. To this end Kim offers: "Can you imagine how much easier it would be if you could answer your mobile phone while it's still in your pocket or buried at the bottom of your bag?"

It's safe to say we're all imagining Kim, and it sounds really, really, cool...

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