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Microsoft creates Kinect-like motion control for laptops using sound waves

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Microsoft Research is demonstrating a Kinect-like motion control for laptops using sound waves.

SoundWave Microsoft Research
SoundWave Microsoft Research

While there's constant speculation over Microsoft's plans for Kinect-equipped laptops, it appears the company is working on some new ways of bringing motion control to existing and new laptops. Microsoft Research has created a new "SoundWave" technology that utilizes the Doppler effect to detect gestures. The SoundWave project uses a microphone and speaker to sense the frequency change of a sound wave by outputting inaudible sounds and measuring their change in frequency as a hand gesture is used.

The result is an array of gestures that can be activated in a similar way to Microsoft's Kinect technology, even if audio is playing from a laptop or there's a lot of background noise. Laptop users can use up and down gestures to scroll through documents or websites, and there's also a left and right swipe gesture that works well enough to use in picture navigation software. One particular useful implementation is the ability to detect when a user steps away from a machine, Microsoft demonstrates this, in the video below, as a way to automatically lock a workstation when it's unused. While this won't be available mainstream anytime soon, it does demonstrate how gestures could be a big part of our interaction with existing and future computers in the years ahead.