Microsoft researching sound only gesture system

The Kinect has made motion controls a reality for consoles, and we might soon be seeing similar technology make the jump to PCs and laptops. Rather than using a dedicated motion sensor bar, Microsoft Research is developing a technique called SoundWave that would detect motion and implement controls using only the microphone and speakers on a laptop.

When a laptop is equipped with the SoundWave software, an ultrasonic tone between 20 and 22KHz is constantly emitted. The microphone then listens to the tone, and if it's the same as what is being output, concludes that there's no motion in the immediate area. If something begins moving towards the computer, the recorded tone will move to a higher frequency, and drop lower if motion is moving away from the computer. SoundWave is able to interpret gestures based on the returned information.

Researchers also say that the technology could be applied to smartphones as they increasingly feature multiple microphones and speakers, leading to more sensitive software in the future. Right now, SoundWave is said to be around 90% accurate, with no noticeable delay between the gesture and the computer's response. Not only that, but SoundWave wouldn't interfere with normal speaker usage, so it could still operate while listening to music or playing videos.

Gestures that have been made to work with the software include swiping your hand up or down, which could lead to webpage navigation and interaction. The software could also be used to turn on or off the computer as a user walks towards or away from it.

[via Technology Review/MIT]