Gesture control: Touching the future of computing

Summary:Tapping the body's natural controls...

Tapping the body's natural controls...


Electromyography measures electrical activity in the muscles using electrodes, which are seen here attached to the wristPhoto: Nick Heath/

Since the mechanical keys of the first typewriters clacked into life in the 19th century, the way people use keyboards has continued to evolve.

Today, keyboards can be virtual - nothing more than a software recreation of the familiar Qwerty layout mapped out on a touchscreen.

The next major leap in computing control could result in physical keyboards disappearing altogether, as gesture-recognition technology allows messages to be typed in thin air.

James Cannan, a bionics researcher and PhD student at the School of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the University of Essex, believes people will be able to type by jabbing their fingers at virtual keys projected in front of them or on glasses they are wearing.

He is planning to build a bracelet designed to record every finger stroke, capturing the movement and position of each digit and using that information to work out which key has been hit.

"I'm trying to create a new input device that people could easily slip onto their wrists. It will automatically adjust to your muscle, and you could control any sort of device," he said.

"One of my early ideas was to control a keyboard you air type."

The keyboard idea has been tested by US space agency Nasa, which designed a prototype for a virtual numeric keypad that works in much the same way as Cannan's proposed device.

Both Nasa's virtual keyboard and the bracelet device Cannan is building use a process called Electromyography (EMG).

EMG involves ...

Topics: Hardware


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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