Ordinary computers become motion-controlled

motion control

Motion-control is fast becoming a popular way to interact with various devices. Now Microsoft researchers have developed a different way to interact with computers, also using motion-control, but in a way that is kinder to your bank balance.

SoundWave is software that can be installed on any computer with speakers and a microphone in order to work. It uses the speakers and microphone to sense in-air gestures around the device, and translate them to on-screen motions.

SoundWave works by generating an inaudible tone, which is frequency-shifted when reflected off moving objects around the computer. The microphone detects these shifts, allowing the computer to pinpoint the type of motion that has occurred, and translate it to an on-screen movement. SoundWave is also able to operate whilst the speakers are in use for other things, like listening to music or watching videos.

With SoundWave installed, you can use it to boot up or power down your computer, simply by walking towards it or away from your computer. If nothing in the immediate environment is moving, the tone the computer’s microphone detects will be constant. If something is moving toward the computer, that tone will shift to a higher frequency. If it’s moving away, the tone will shift to a lower frequency.

SoundWave will be formally presented as collaboration between Microsoft Research and the University of Washington in a paper at the 2012 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing in Austin, Texas.

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