Computer control has been gradually moving away from mechanical interfaces to more “human-like” interactions. First came the mouse; then everything got wireless. Next, computing interfaces graduated to trackpads and touch screens, even multi-finger gestures to interact with objects on the screen. Gaming then took interfaces a step further with motion controllers for Wii and finally Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox proved that all you really needed to interact with a system was your body.
While gaming is an obvious choice for motion interaction, there is real opportunity to improve standard computing interactions and reduce repetitive stress injuries. Clearly Microsoft has been working on applying their Kinect technology to computers; however, it isn’t yet available outside their gaming console. Other companies are working on solutions that use external devices to create control areas that can sense and use human motion for computer control. But what about using the motion capture interface that is already nearly ubiquitous for laptops, smartphones & tablets?
Enter Flutter, a little app for Windows and Mac that uses your webcam to allow you to play and pause your music and movies. This isn’t the first time motion has been tried for media controls on a computer. However, the simplicity of the solution is what makes it so compelling. Flutter currently works with iTunes, Spotify, WinAmp and Windows Media Player. To play or pause your media, simply hold your hand up in front of your webcam. A play or pause symbol then appears briefly in the middle of your screen for visual confirmation of your command; plus your media either starts or stops. That’s it – now it is simple to halt your AC/DC jam out when your phone rings, or easily pause your movie when it’s time for a snack or bathroom break.
Outside of media control, the implications for smartphones & tablets that already have cameras certainly challenges the term “hands-free”. Wave Control, an Android app from Mark’s Think Tank, brings hand waving to the smartphone for music and ringer control. Android and iOS app Waze now let’s drivers wave their hand to activate accident reporting and uses voice control to complete the accident report. Pointgrab, a provider of software for hand gesture recognition via camera, is currently selling their solutions to manufacturers and this technology is reportedly part of the forthcoming Windows 8.
Computing interfaces in 2012 are not yet a scene cut from Minority Report, but it is definitely starting to be a hands-up world out there.
The Leap Motion Control – Venturebeat
Flutter Wants to Put the World’s Webcams to Work – TechCrunch
 Microsoft Research Video