Imagine a system where a snap of your fingers or the wave of your hand is all that is needed to post, play, edit and work on your computer. Well, someone has already beat you to it. A couple of people actually, and they’re taking great strides forward in human-computer interaction interfaces.
The youthful (the co-founders are among the top “30 Under 30”) San Francisco-based tech company Leap Motion has one-upped Apple (how often does one get to say that?) and made The Leap Motion Controller: a light, three-inch-long device which plugs into a computer and acts as a motion controller that tracks all 10 fingers to 1/100th of a millimetre—200 times more sensitive than existing motion-tracking technology. Its 150 degree field-of-view and enabled Z-axis recognizes the difference between fingers, palms and all the gestures they’re capable of. Michael Buckwald, CEO and founder explains: “The advances here aren’t really in the hardware. We’re talking about some very complicated mathematics.”
Giving them a run for their money is a smaller, younger and very promising tech startup in Waterloo, Canada called Thalmic Labs. Their creation is called MYO: a wristband that detects the electrical impulses traveling through the forearm—also known as electromyography. The unique combination of impulses produced by every gesture (snapping fingers, pointing finger, waving hand, rotating wrist, etc.) is sensed through the skin and translated by algorithms, which in turn are wirelessly communicated to your computer, iPhone, headset or quadrocopter drone. Despite this luxurious level of tech-wizardry, the devices are being pre-sold at only $80 and $149 (USD) respectively.
When it comes to motion-tracking versus electromyography versus voice-monitoring (as in Google Glass), the quarrell is on-going. The proposed devices all boast a superiority in terms of design comfort, UI simplicity, software compatibility and hardware accessibility. The crux of the debate however is the interactive capabilities and possibilities of each device. The mobilization of different technologies requires differents interactive languages which, in turn, results in different types of behaviours. What the replacement of clicks and taps means, we’ll have to see.