New acronym to absorb: “WUW” – Wear Ur World.
As technology allows components to get smaller, and more powerful, the “geeks” among us come up with ways to apply them to practical problems. In this case, it’s a project called “SixthSense.”
I have dabbled in voice recognition as far back as the Apple II+ days (that’s a long time ago. I didn’t even ask about the cost of the software, I just played with it at Apple World in Boston for as long as I could, in my first encounter. Now, voice systems at the other end of our phones “know’ our voices without us “training” them.
Move to the world of “gestures.” Even before the iPhone using mulittouch technology (reads two points and reacts based on relative movement between them), Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) had a set of gestures for things like add and delete characters and spaces, as you “typed” with your stylus.
Add to this the next small mix of current technology: Face tracking on your webcams. As you move, the digital controls have determined where your face is and automatically keep it centered with in it’s limits of digital or physical movement. That’s on your desk today. More sophisticated systems are being used for security purposes, too.
Now we do have the iPhone and may copycats, like the HTC Touch phone. Microsoft and other companies have demonstrated multi-touch of many more points and Apple has recently patented a multi-user/multi-touch system, that just knows the different sets of fingers and palms touching the display. Look for this type of technology to show up on your favorite high end restaurant’s table soon, with a direct interface to the kitchen and bar staff.
Now, I’ll get back to SixthSense, which requires a small projector and a camera, and a place to project on. Basically, the projector becomes your display, and the camera sees what your hands are doing between you and the projected image. Now the software takes over to allow the interpretation, in context, of the hand movements to provide a “Minority Report” like virtual reality display operated just by the motions of your hands in mid air. Just think, that movie came out in 2002, and here we are, coming close to this being a common method of interacting with a digitally enhanced world. Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?
This project is designed to be part of a wearable computing system. Other projects, such as the Microsoft Natal, are for use with a fixed system, in front of your installed display (TV/computer monitor).
This really isn’t far off, and while the videos show the interaction is a little bit jerky, and the componets, as small as they are, are still somewhat unwieldy, this is what “engineering models” look like, and then some other engineers get to work doing things like integrating projectors and cameras and mirrors into a designer set of glasses frames, so it’s actually useful and comfortable.
“Early adopters” will be the people who take a Dremel Tool to that fancy biking helmet, and won’t mind the wires running down the back of thier shirt’s to connet to the battery and computer package. Trust me, you’ll be repulsed and attracted, simultaneously, to this person and want to know how you can do it too, but you’ll only buy in if they can guarantee you that there is no residual “helmet hair” when you remove your “device.” This prototype was put together for $350 in parts. Amazing!