Microsoft Develops Kinect Like Gesture Recognition without Cameras

Earlier today, we showcased a couple of futuristic projects from MIT Media Labs that are trying to re-imagine how we interact with devices. Now, it is the turn of Microsoft Research, which is known to come up with pretty neat stuff (like Harry Potter clock) from time to time.

This time around, a four member project team has developed a simple Windows application to enable gesture recognition without the use of any sophisticated gesture recognition hardware. Forget about complex (and often expensive) peripherals like Kinect, you don’t even need a basic camera. All that is required is a speaker and a microphone.

Microsoft’s gesture recognition technology, which is being called SoundWave, depends on Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect describes how the frequency of sound perceived by an observer changes with variation in the relative velocity of the observer with respect to the source. SoundWave emits a high frequency sound (18-22 KHz) that is inaudible to human beings. It then uses the microphone to pick up the frequency shifted signal to recognize the gesture. The use of high frequency sound makes SoundWave incredibly accurate even in a noisy environment.


SoundWave is still a research project, and there is no word if and when it might become ready for the general public. Unlike Kinect, SoundWave will probably not be able to recognize complicated gestures. In all likelihood, distance of the user from the speaker and microphone will also be a limiting factor. However, even with these constraints, it’s a fascinating piece of technology that might one day transform how we interact with computers.

Swÿp from MIT Enables Transfer of Files Across Devices with a Swipe

MIT Media Lab is a breeding ground for all sorts of futuristic technologies. In the past we have seen them come up with uber cool stuff like Sixth Sense and folding cars. Now, their Fluid interface group has developed a new app that can enable effortless sharing of files between any touchscreen enable device (phones, tablets etc.).

Swÿp allows you to transfer any file from any app to any app on any device, simply with a swipe of a finger. The file transfer happens in two phases. As soon as your finger leaves the boundary of the first device (swipe out), it registers as a service on available networks. When your finger enters the second device (swipe in), that device begins looking for registered services. An ad-hoc connection is then established between the two devices to transfer the dragged file. Have a look at the video below to see Swÿp in action.

Besides touchscreen devices, Swÿp is also compatible with another exciting MIT Lab project called LuminAR. LuminAR is a desk lamp with augmented reality features. This lamp comes with a Pico-projector, camera, and wireless computer in a compact form factor. The lamp is capable of projecting information onto the environment (for example your desktop), and recognizing your interactions with the projected information. In other words, it can turn any desktop into a touchscreen.

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