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More Than a Mouse

By Neil Savage

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 56 No. 11, Pages 15-16

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People internet surfing in coffee shops may soon be waving their hands in front of their laptops (if they aren't already), thanks to a new type of user interface making its way into the mainstream. In July, Leap Motion of San Francisco, CA, introduced a gesture-based controller; the device plugs into a USB port and sits in front of the computer, projecting a cone of infrared light that it uses to detect hand and finger positions with a pair of CCD cameras.

Other companies are also experimenting with new interfaces. Apple, for instance, was recently granted a patent on a system for recognizing gestures made above the surface of a touchscreen. A touch sensor in the screen reads the drop-off in capacitance as a finger moves away from the surface, and uses that drop-off to measure proximity. That allows the user to add a pulling motion to the standard swipe and pinch motions of touchscreens, and makes it possible to manipulate a virtual 3D object. Apple envisions the technology being used in computer-aided design systems, according to the patent.


Martin Cohen

To me, the problem with gesture-based interaction is the strain that it puts on the shoulder and elbow. The problems with using a mouse will be much greater (I switched to a trackball years ago for this reason), and I foresee damaged shoulders and elbows. I can use a trackball with it by my side and almost no arm movement at all. I do not see how this can be done with gesture-based interaction.

I would like to see studies where the movements of various parts of the arm are tracked and related to future problems.

Steven Hoober

I know I am late to the party, catching up with my reading here on a trip, but it would be nice if the survey was a little broader. Mass-market mobile devices do have off-screen gesture and gaze control. Do they not make it in because they aren't Apple (or ex-Apple employee) products? I am not talking niche or foreign products, but the Samsung Galaxy S4, which alone has sold 40 million units (and been out since April of 2013).

Not that you'd have encountered my obscure blog, but I put some thoughts down comparing the S4 to the Leap here, if you want to read a tiny bit about it http://shoobe01.blogspot.com/2013/08/gesture-deathmatch-leap-motion-vs.html But, I encourage you to try it out. Quite interesting, and a lot better than Leap due to the integration at the OS level, alone.

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