Microsoft’s Digits Hand Gesture Sensor Bracelet Breaks Cover

Wearable computing is fascinating, both for the many practical challenges designers must solve before a device is functional and convenient and for the wonderful possibilities of it all. Google Glass is definitely currently one of the more high-profile endeavors in that regard, but Microsoft is at it, too.

Microsoft Research has been developing Digits, a wrist-mounted device that lets users control devices such as smartphones, tablets, radios, and video game systems using gestures in the air. In addition to creating a 3D representation of a user’s hand on a screen, Digits can control devices when users simulate certain gestures, such as turning a knob to crank volume up or down.

Microsoft Digits prototype

The prototype still looks very much like a prototype, but amazingly it’s built from off-the-shelf parts, including an IR camera, IR laser line generator, IR diffuse illumination, and an inertial measurement unit, and and it’s worth noting that wearers don’t need any kind of data glove. A bare hand works perfectly.

The uses for such a device are numerous and limited mostly by one’s imagination, but Microsoft offers up a few purposes in the below video. Using discrete or continuous movements, you can see that a user can use his fingers to shoot a virtual gun or engage in hand-to-hand combat in a video game; pinching, zooming, and manipulating objects on a tablet; and answering a call on a smartphone.

There could be especially power applications for those with physical limitations of various kinds, as Digits is designed to work as an input device while the arm and wrist are relaxed. Further, note right at the end of the video that Digits is used to perform sign language, so the device could be something the hearing impaired could find useful.