Microsoft SoundWave is a Kinect without the camera

By on May 8, 2012, 6:00 PM

Microsoft has been a pioneer in gesture control with their Kinect motion sensing device but a new venture from a Microsoft Research project team aims to essentially do the same thing without the cameras. SoundWave allows the user to control their computer with hand gestures that are recognize via sound waves.

More specifically, SoundWave is a real time sensing technique that works in conjunction with a microphone and a speaker. The technology emits an inaudible tone which then uses the Doppler effect to detect a frequency shift to recognize the hand gesture in action.

The user doesn’t have to wear any special sensors on their body for the detection algorithm to work and music can even be played simultaneously through the speakers without any adverse effects.

The Research team demonstrates several different applications where SoundWave could be useful, including scrolling through a document or webpage, using the technology to lock a user’s computer screen when they walk away and even play a game of Tetris.

The technology is very cool but as CNET points out, there are likely some restrictions on use. First, we don’t know how close the user must be to the microphone and speaker for the device to track gestures correctly. All of the tests in the sample video show a user relatively close to the computer. Additionally, we don’t know if there are any restrictions on where the microphone and speaker(s) must be placed for optimal results.

As a Research project, this isn’t something that we expect to see as a retail product anytime soon but should the tech prove promising, Microsoft could very well implement it into future devices.

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