The next computer interface: your finger

A new haptic device, the Fingertip Digitizer, has been developed at the University of Buffalo (UB). It will interpret your hand gestures and will translate them for your PC, medical devices or computer games. A commercial version should be available within 3 years.

A new haptic device will be shown at the next SIGGRAPH. This virtual reality system, the Fingertip Digitizer, has been developed at the University of Buffalo (UB). It will interpret your hand gestures and will translate them for your PC, medical devices or computer games. According to one developer, the Fingertip Digitizer "will help bridge the gap between what a person knows and what a computer knows" and a commercial version should be available within 3 years. Read more...

Here is the introduction about this new device developed at UB Virtual Reality Laboratory.

UB researchers say their "Fingertip Digitizer," which users wear on the tip of the index finger, can transfer to the virtual world the meaning and intent of common hand gestures, such as pointing, wagging the finger, tapping in the air or other movements that can be used to direct the actions of an electronic device, much like a mouse directs the actions of a personal computer, but with greater precision.
What's more, the Fingertip Digitizer can transfer to personal computers very precise information about the physical characteristics of an object -- and even can sense the shape and size of a human gland or tumor -- when a user taps, scratches, squeezes, strokes or glides a finger over the surface of the object.

Below are two low-quality images showing how you'll be using the Fingertip Digitizer (Credit for this one: University of Buffalo, via SIGGRAPH).

Using the Fingertip Digitizer (image #1)

And this is another view of the possible usage of the Fingertip Digitizer (Credit: University of Buffalo, via Technology News Daily).

Using the Fingertip Digitizer (image #2)

What will be able to do with this new human computer interface?

"With this device a computer, cell phone or computer game could read human intention more naturally," explains Thenkurussi Kesavadas (a.k.a. kesh)[, director of UB's Virtual Reality Lab]. "Eventually the Fingertip Digitizer may be used as a high-end substitute for a mouse, a keyboard or a joystick."

Kesavadas and Young-Seok Kim will present the device at SIGGRAPH 2006, which will be held between July 30 and August 3 in Boston, Massachusetts. Here is a link to a page about the Fingertip Digitizer, Applying Haptics and Biomechanics to Tactile Input Technology. The top image of this post comes from this page, which also gives additional details.

Human finger activity represents tremendous potential in digital-interaction technologies. Because this free-hand touch technology does not require a screen, it will significantly change the conventional input paradigm for many manual tasks in art, medicine, and industrial operations. For example, this free-hand, direct finger-touch technology a promising alternative to existing stylus-based or probe-based interfaces, such as the computer mouse and medical diagnostic systems.

Here is afinal quote from the researchers about the use of this device as a computer game accessory.

With the device attached to the fingertip, the user simply would gesture in the air as he looks at a computer screen where a software program or computer game may be running. In this way, the user can direct the opening or moving of an electronic file, for example. Using the device as a computer-game accessory, the user could imitate the squeezing of a trigger or the stroking of pool cue, for example, say Kim and Kesavadas.

If you attend SIGGRAPH, please try this new haptic device and tell me if you enjoyed it. Finally, here is a link to a SIGGRAPH 2006 news release describing some of the other devices that will be introduced during the conference.

Sources: University of Buffalo news release, July 27, 2006; and various web sites

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