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Gesture Control System Uses Sound Alone

May 9, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
doppler_effect_gesture_laptop.jpg
SoundWave lets an ordinary laptop function like a Kinect sensor.

May 7, 2012 by Rachel Metz via TechnologyReview.com -- When you learned about the Doppler Effect in high school physics class -- the wave frequency shift that occurs when the source of the wave is moving, easily illustrated by a passing ambulance -- you probably didn't envision it helping control your computer one day.



But that's exactly what a group of researchers are doing at Microsoft Research, the software giant's Redmond, Washington-based lab. Gesture control is becoming increasingly common and is even built into some TVs. While other motion-sensing technologies such as Microsoft's own Kinect device use cameras to sense and interpret movement and gestures, SoundWave does this using only sound -- thanks to the Doppler Effect, some clever software, and the built-in speakers and microphone on a laptop.

Desney Tan, a Microsoft Research principal researcher and member of the SoundWave team, says the technology can already be used to sense a number of simple gestures, and with smart phones and laptops starting to include multiple speakers and microphones, the technology could become even more sensitive. SoundWave -- a collaboration between Microsoft Research and the University of Washington -- will be presented this week in a paper at the 2012 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing in Austin, Texas.

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