Friday, June 1, 2012

A sound rival for Kinect

Since its introduction, systems developers have created a myriad of rather innovative applications using Microsoft's Kinect -- the motion sensing input device the company developed for the Xbox 360 video game console and Windows PCs.

Naturally enough, the folks at Microsoft have also been busy conjuring up some interesting applications for the Kinect system too. Last month, for example, the company revealed that researchers from its Redmond, Washington research labs had teamed up with others from the University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA, USA) to develop a system that can determine the identity of an individual from a group of individuals interacting with a multi-user interactive touch display.

The so-called ShakeID system makes the assumption that each user is holding a smart-phone or other portable device whose movement is sensed by an in-built 3-axis accelerometer. The ShakeID system can then identify which user is using the multi-user interactive touch display by matching the motion sensed by the device to body motion captured by the Kinect camera.

As far as they are aware, the researchers believe that this is the first attempt to fuse data from the Kinect system with inertial sensing from mobile devices to identify users of multi-touch interactive displays.

But although gesture is becoming an increasingly popular means of interacting with computers, it's still relatively costly to deploy gesture recognition sensors in existing mobile platforms such as cell phones.

And that's why another group of Microsoft researchers has teamed up with researchers from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA, USA) to develop what they are calling SoundWave, a system that makes use of the speaker and microphone already embedded in most commodity devices to sense gestures around the device.

To do this, the SoundWave system generates an inaudible tone, which gets frequency-shifted when it reflects off moving objects like the hand. The shift is then measured with the microphone in the device to infer various gestures.

Although the Microsoft team developed and tested the algorithms for the system on various laptops and desktop PCs, they believe that the approach could be extended to smart phones and tablets using the same frequency shift technique.

More information on the ShakeID system can be found here.

More information on the SoundWave system can be found here.

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