Earlier this month the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft that reveals their intent to bring advanced air gesturing to devices such as notebooks, tablets, smartphones and beyond. Air-Gesturing will be able to control music volume, media player status, scroll webpages, control gaming functionality and much more. This technology is likely to make its way to market in Q4 2014 in concert with the use of a breakthrough 3D Depth camera that Intel first introduced earlier this month.
Intel's Breakthrough 3D Depth Camera
A major announcement was made at this year's Computex tradeshow in Taiwan regarding a next-generation camera for computers. Intel's Kirk Skaugen, Senior VP and General Manager of PC Client Group, was proud to announce Intel's breakthrough invention this way: "This may be something that we write about for many years to come. Very quietly, in the secret rooms at Intel, we've been investing in camera technologies. And this is what we believe will be the world's first 3D Depth camera integration. And our commitment along with multiple OEM partners is to put this into notebooks, Ultrabooks and all-in-ones by the second half of 2014."
Skaugen later added that tablets would be able to adopt the new camera as well. This could be a nice advancement for computing so as to allow for advanced in-air gesturing for work and play.
Inte's latest revelations actually enhances Microsoft's latest patent filing which came to light earlier this month which was all about advanced in-air gesturing. Although the technology doesn't mention the use of a camera, there's no doubt that Microsoft's Windows operating system will support this next generation 3D depth camera for the second half of 2014. If anything it will both expand and enhance Microsoft's latest invention.
The Doppler Effect
Microsoft's most recent patent filing generally relates to utilizing user control gestures to control computers. Individual user gestures will be able to be identified using analyzed audio signal data. Individual user gestures will be able to be mapped to specific control functionalities of the computer. The specific control functionality will be implemented to control the computer.
As noted below in patent figure 1, the act of air-gesturing in the form of waving a user's hand in front of the display will be able to scroll a webpage on a device such as a tablet.
In this particular patent filing, Microsoft notes that the "action by gesture" is accomplished by using the "Doppler Effect." Microsoft states that user gestures will be detected by a computer by emitting an audio signal and detecting the emitted signal. Any differences between the emitted signal and the detected signal will be analyzed to detect the user gesture based upon the Doppler Effect or Doppler shift. Individual user gestures will be identified from the analyzed audio signal data. Individual user gestures will be mapped to specific control functionalities of the computer.
Gestures and Use Cases
Microsoft reviews a few specific gestures worth noting as follows:
Double Tap or Tapping Gesture: By observing the change in direction over time, the 'frequency' at which the direction is changing can be computed. The value of this direction frequency can be used for detecting tap gestures, which can be further used to distinguish quick taps, much like a mouse double-click, from slower taps.
The Two Handed Seesaw Gesture: entails moving both hands in opposite directions at the same time to activate the gesture. It is detected by the presence of both shifted up and down frequency components in the same (Fast Fourier Transform) FFT vector.
Proximity and Flick: This gesture is activated when at least a number of consecutive motion events in the same direction are detected. The walking gesture can be used to automatically put a computer to sleep or wake it up as a user walks away or towards it.
Backside Device Gesturing
As you'll note below, Microsoft's patent FIGS. 6 and 7 presents us with a scenario where the user can actually control aspects of a notebook (or any other device) with user gestures even though the user is not in front of the notebook nor in line of sight of the display screen. In patent FIG. 6 the user is able to change their music playing status to play or stop in the same way as shown in FIG. 5 above.
The Doppler-based user gesture detection implementations detect motion around a computer and use properties of the detected motion, such as speed, direction, and/or amplitude, to recognize a rich set of user gestures. For instance, by tracking the direction and speed, a user gesture of moving the hand up or down can scroll a webpage in real-time.
Doppler-based user gesture detection implementations can also detect two hands moving in opposite directions, among other detectable user gestures. The concepts can be implemented on any type of computer that has a microphone and a speaker. The microphone and the speaker need not be dedicated to gesture detection and can simultaneously perform other functions. The described implementations are robust and can perform satisfactorily in both busy and noisy environments and quieter environments. The concepts can be implemented across multiple different types of devices so that the user can control any of the devices with the same user gestures.
For those giving small presentations to individuals or small groups of 2 or 3 on their notebooks, they'll be able to focus on their presentation while one hand in the back of the notebook will be able to use simple air gestures to control the scrolling of the display or perhaps to change slides and more.
The patent filing covers and protects the basic principles of the design of air gesturing using a Doppler methodology. While Microsoft's filing keeps their example scenarios tightly confined to controlling music and scrolling a webpage, their more advanced features are tightly under wraps. Obviously it will cover gaming moves of one sort or another, moving presentation slides and/or photos, start and/or pause a movie player and much, much more. Air gesturing will greatly serve both mobile devices and the desktop.
If you have any specifica ideas as to how Microsoft could or should use this new technology in the not-too-distant future that isn't presented in our report, be sure to send in your suggestions and/or comments below. Microsoft originally filed their patent application in Q4 2011 under serial number 332348. It was published earlier this month by the US Patent Office.
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Another Microsoft Patent Relating to Air-Gesturing: Microsoft Envisions Air Gesturing Controlling your TV & More