Was it really only three years ago that Nintendo’s Wii controller seemed mindbendingly innovative? Before long, the fact that the Wii involves a controller at all may feel a tad retro.
One of my favorite CES demos this year was in a little private room on the periphery of the show floor. PrimeSense is an Israeli chip designer that’s building a processor to enable consumer-electronics devices of all sorts to accept gestures as input. It uses a cameras/infrared sensor to spot people and figure out their movements–even subtle ones like a wave of the fingertips. And then it can use those movements to control consumer-electronics devices, games, and maybe even eventually cars.
Here’s a video the company prepared showing the basic idea:
The video doesn’t show the use of the technology that really knocked my socks off when the company showed it to me: a TV-based photo viewer that’s reminiscent of the one offered by Microsoft’s Surface tabletop computer. Except PrimeSense’s version doesn’t make you touch anything–you just move your hands around in middair to move, rotate, and resize pictures on the TV. It’s multi-touch without the touch.
It’s also the closest thing to real-world Minority Report I’ve witnessed so far:
PrimeSense isn’t new (it also previewed what it was up to at CES 2008) and doesn’t lack for competitors trying to do vaguely similar things (such as Canesta). And the example of controller-less control that’s grabbed the most attention so far is Microsoft’s Project Natal for the Xbox 360, which is supposed to show up by the 2010 holiday season. But PrimeSense is finally talking about its technology showing up in commercial projects–the first of which is a new version of CyberLink’s PowerCinema movie player for Windows which will let you use gestures to control playback.
One way or another, I look forward to the day when the only universal remotes we’ll need are our own ten fingers…