Virtual Fingers for Off-Keyboarding

At the end of May, LEAP Motion made a big noise with it’s inexpensive MoCap for 3D Modelers.  We haven’t heard much about LEAP lately, and they have yet to release their product 5 months later. But that hasn’t slowed others from taking the field.

Now another San Francisco-based start up called 3Gear has developed a gesture interface that can track fast-moving fingers. T the company will release an early version of its software to programmers. The setup requires two 3-D cameras positioned above the user to the right and left.


Fig 1 – 3D SketchUp Model of 3Gear’s hand-tracking system. Mounting 3D cameras (Xbox Kinects) above the desk, allows their software to capture subtle motions of the hands and fingers.

3Gear hopes third party developers will embrace their DIY Mocap, and create useful applications that will exercise 3Gear’s hand-tracking algorithms. The hardware ($330) is available on their websites, and the software is currently in free public beta (until Nov 30th).

Eventually, says co-founder Robert Wang, 3Gear’s technology could be used by engineers to craft 3-D objects, by gamers who want precision play, by surgeons who need to manipulate 3-D data during operations, and by anyone who wants a computer to do her bidding with a wave of the finger.

Video 1 – Video demonstrating hand tracking in action and used on various 3D Models.

The known problem that 3Gear’s hand-tracking solves is so called “Gorilla Arm” – the ache of holding your hands out over-the-keyboard for existing tracking solutions. But while it’s nice to add gestures to your keyboarding, there may be easier tools for manipulating 3D objects.

Johnny Lee notes “You have to compete with the mouse, keyboard, and touch screen in front of you”. He sees Mocap in the desktop space as a productivity scenario that is a much more challenging sell, than in pure play scenarios like gaming.

In Short –  3Gear throws its lot into an increasingly crowded solutions space currently occupied by the likes of Israeli startup Omek, Belgian startup SoftKinetic, and another San Francisco Leap Motion.

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Resources:

Meet the Nimble-Fingered Interface of the Future – Technology Review

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