Prototype Uses Gestures to Control Appliances

Thumbs up, lights on. Thumbs down, lights off. That's all a user would need to do with the GestureID project from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology. After more than a year of intensive research, the group presented its project at the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin.

Dr. Frank Klefenz, the head of bio-inspired computing at the institute, said that a video camera continuously captures an image. A monitor mounted above the camera shows how it sees its surroundings--in mostly blue, black and a bit of yellow--with skin color appearing as blue to the computer. The software can detect a hand, counters of fingertips and finger nails. When the computer sees that a user is making a thumbs up gesture, then an LED lamp will turn on. A thumbs down gesture turns the lamp off and when the thumb is orientated to the left or right, the lamp will cycle through various colors.

For the project to work, the user needs to be close to the unit's camera; about no further than half a meter. If the thumb is further away, then the camera has a wider field of view and detects background movement which confuses the computer.

It's still a research project and no commercialization is definite, Klefenz said. "The next step is to go into the consumer electronics environment and switch on every device...and to even make touch screens in cars touchless," he said.

Gesture control seems to be a theme at the Institute. The Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications displayed a gesture controlled computer called iPoint3D that let users play games in three dimensions.

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