You gotta love technology. Every solution seems to cause a new problem, which then inspires another solution, which causes yet another problem. I’d conclude that engineers are as skillful as lawyers at perpetuating their own profession, except I don’t want to insult the engineers.
Flicks with a pulse on where technology was headed
You can yell, "Beam me up, Scotty!" all you want, the only thing that will happen is you'll elicit a bunch of bemused stares from passersby wondering if you've bonked your head recently. The sad fact is human teleportation devices don't yet exist in 2013, and even if they did, the tremendous lag would make it extraordinarily impractical. Such is the reality of science that it doesn't always mesh with our fantastic visions of fictional futures filled with flying cars and other implausible technologies. In other words, reality sucks compared to what we've grown up watching on television.
The flash drive-sized device, it is claimed, is the “world’s most powerful 3-D motion controller”
Even as Microsoft lets Kinect for Windows wither on the vine, San Francisco-based startup Leap Motion, Inc is gearing up to launch its first product: an eponymous motion-control device the size of a flash drive. Capable of accurately tracking finger movements to within a hundredth of a millimeter, the Leap Motion controller will begin shipping in May.
If one were to anthropomorphize contemporary computer navigation technology, it would be a grave-bound man living in constant fear ever since Minority Report's release. However, most people would agree that the gesture-based interface depicted in the film has lost a bit of its novelty. It is no longer as challenging an undertaking as it seemed back when the movie first hit theaters.
Using the movie as an inspiration, two MIT students, Tony Hyun Kim and Nevada Sanchez, have been working on something they call the Glove Mouse. It is basically a pair of gloves that lets the user control a computer using just hand gestures.
A common trait among many sci-fi movies is the depiction of outlandish technologies that, while they may appear to be badass concepts (some are just hokey), they end up scoffed at by geeks due to the impracticality of trying to implement them. The computer used in Minority Report falls into this category, or at least we thought it did until we saw Oblong's G-Speak spatial operating system. And there's a good reason for the similarity.
"Some of the SOE's core ideas are already familiar from the film Minority Report, whose characters performed forensic analysis using massive, gesturally driven displays," Oblong states on its website. "The similarity is no coincidence: one of Oblong's founders served as science adviser to Minority Report and based the design of those scenes directly on his earlier work at MIT."
Oblong's website hosts a video showing the new OS in action. A demonstrator wearing special gloves performs a variety of gestures that manipulate content on multiple screens. At one point in the video, a second demonstrator steps into the scene to show how more than one user can interact with the OS at the same time. What's really amazing is how smoothly everything works with real-time responses to hand gestures, a result of G-Speak being optimized for massive data sets and time-critical work, the developers say.
While it's far too early to tell what long-term implications G-Speak might have on mainstream computing, we can't help but think of the possibilities, both in productivity apps and videogames.
Some might argue that the mouse is currently a great tool for playing games of just about any genre, but Mgestyk Technologiespolitely disagrees. With the first (planned) public sale of a gesture control system, they seek to bring the Minority Report-like action straight to you.
Using only what’s been described as an “affordable 3D camera” and some proprietary software that will capture small hand gestures, they plan on challenging everyone’s favorite – the mouse. Understandably, some gamers might be reluctant to give up their Logitech or Razer in favor of holding their hands in front of a camera, there are undoubtedly some pretty notable foundations here.
In a video provided by Mgestyk there’s some pretty interesting footage demonstrating the technology that they've come up with. While yes, the reaction time between gesture and response may be a big higher than desired, there are plenty of people that have expressed interest. Mgestyk claims that they’ve got a waiting list for people looking to get their hands on the tech, and they aren’t willing to commit a release date or a price.
With some news that is sure to surprise absolutely nobody, the Department of Homeland Security is currently in the process of developing a new way to spy on you. The new technology, called “Future Attribute Screening Technology,” or FAST (catchy, huh?) will use crowd-monitoring body sensors that detect individuals’ pulses, body language, breathing rates and facial temperatures to determine threats.
FAST is said to have had accurate results, identifying suspicious behavior in four out of five scenarios. One such scenario, run at a ranch in Maryland involved roughly 140 participants. They were told to walk through FAST’s sensors, with a small group of them instructed to act suspicious or hostile. The effective accuracy rate of FAST was 78% on mal-intent detection, and 80% on deception.
The Department of Homeland Security is said to still be relatively early in their research, but say it looks very promising.
Criticism comes in the form of John Verdi of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He states that FAST is “substantially more invasive in airports,” referring to it as a medical exam that the government has no right to conduct. There’s also concern that FAST could improperly identify physical conditions heart murmurs, breathing problems, and high stress levels as threats.
Should FAST be implemented, it might be a common sight at concerts, sporting events and other public gatherings, right alongside the mobile toilets or catering trucks.