Another arm-flapping, hand-waving look at future computing

February 16, 2010 by Dave Haynes

TechCrunch is reporting on one of the presentations at a recent TED conference by the guy who came up with the user experience Tom Cruise waved his arms and wiggled his fingers in front of in the film Minority Report.
The New York Times had a writer at the event, who reports:
John Underkoffler, who led the team that came up with the interface that Tom Cruise’s character used in the 2002 movie “Minority Report,” co-founded a company, Oblong Industries, to make the gesture-activated interface a reality.

Using special gloves, Mr. Underkoffler demonstrated the interface — called the g-speak Spatial Operating Environment — on Friday at the annual TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., a series of lectures by experts across a variety of technologies.

He pushed, pulled and twisted vast troves of photos and forms that were on a screen in front of him, compressing and stretching as he went. He zoomed in, zoomed out and rotated the images using six degrees of control. In one part of the demonstration, he reached into a series of movies, plucked out a single character from each and placed them onto a “table” together where they continued to move. (Oblong has released its own demonstration video).

In this conception of computing, the input and the output occupy the same space — unlike a conventional computer, in which the mouse and computer keyboard are separate from the screen, where the changes appear. Even the Nintendo Wii game console, which responds to gesture and motions, often projects that motion onto an on-screen figure.

Mr. Underkoffler said this gesture technology was already being used in Fortune 50 companies, government agencies and universities, and he predicted that it would soon be available for consumers. “I think in five years’ time, when you buy a computer, you’ll get this,” he said. 
This has that solution looking for a problem smell to it when it comes to everyday use and most commercial applications, but it is still interesting to see people pushing the boundaries and thinking beyond how it’s now done.
I really don’t see much application for this sort of thing in public spaces unless the gestures are very simple and the technology uses cameras to track and respond to movement without users needing special gloves.   
That said, personal injury lawyers and companies that make table lamps would love to have a future with people all wildly gesturing with their arms and hands.  

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