It was rumored that the original Xbox 360 Kinect would feature finger tracking. The feature was obviously absent from the original accessory’s launch, but there’s still hope that a future iteration of the device could provide the kind of precision that would make finger gesture-based games possible. Microsoft is already working on such a motion capture device right now, but it’s not being used for games.
Microsoft researchers are currently attending the User Interface Software and Technology symposium to show off their newest creation – Digits. It’s a wrist-worn gloveless sensor that accurately tracks finger movements with little to no lag. It’s no Kinect, but the technology used is even more impressive than Microsoft’s initial foray into motion capture technology.
Interestingly enough, the Kinect is what inspired the team at Microsoft to create Digits. They wanted to create “natural 3D interactions with bare hands,” but the Kinect presented a few limitations. For one, it wasn’t mobile. It’s also lacks the incredible detail required to track separate fingers as they move independently of each other.
To solve this problem, the team created a wrist-mounted device that uses an infrared camera and a laser to accurately pinpoint where fingers are moving on a hand. The device looks to be a little clunky for now, but the results are already amazing. Check out this tech demo from Microsoft Research:
The most amazing use of this technology so far is the manipulation of a smartphone without having to actually see or touch it. It’s always annoying when I have to bust out my smartphone to switch out music tracks when walking. This technology would literally reduce the action to something as simple as snapping your fingers.
We’ll probably never see this technology in its current form. It’s a crude prototype that lacks the finesse and style of modern electronic design. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft implemented something like this in future versions of Kinect, Windows PCs and other devices.