New human-device interface technology will soon be available that enables users to change TV channels or move documents on a computer screen with simple hand gestures. Companies have been developing this technology for years, but only recently has a breakthrough enabled them to manufacture products to a mainstream audience. The breakthrough came from a company called GestureTek, which creates interactive displays for TV weathermen, museums, and hotels. GestureTek built three-dimensional cameras that can distinguish the hand movements of users. From a soft punch up into the air to turn on the TV, to a twist of the hand to change channels, or raising the volume with an upward pat, these simple gestures can be detected by the cameras and interpreted by specially-designed computer chips. The use of gesture technology to control electronics will get a big boost later this year when Microsoft releases a new video game system based on the technology, which currently is known as Project Natal. Unlike Nintendo’s Wii system, which uses handheld controllers to convert body movements into commands, Project Natal is based on body movements captured by digital cameras. Gesture-controlled TVs and computers also are expected later this year that will feature built-in cameras and could ultimately make many touch-screen controls obsolete.
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