Gesture-recognition technology's role in redefining usability in consumer electronics has been discussed in great detail already. Music players you can mute by snapping your fingers, TVs that switch off when you walk away from them, the new Google glass that reportedly clicks pictures when you wink are all rapidly taking gesture-control technology mainstream. However, its impact on HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) for industries would be an interesting trend to look out for.
In healthcare for instance, the use of gesture-control technology is steadily making inroads. Earlier this year, researchers in the UK made a breakthrough in using gesture-control technology to reduce surgical delays and increase efficiency. Their new device accepts gestures from surgeons as commands to manipulate MRI images on a display, eliminating the need to touch unsterile equipment like a key board, mouse or a touch screen. This, combined with context-aware technology-that can make intelligent decisions based on factors, such as the position of the surgeons' torso, head movements, and gaze-is developing as the future of technological support in surgery and healthcare.
The trend in education is uncannily similar. Natural body movement, as a way to interact and engage with the learning material, is perhaps the next best thing to practical learning. Gesture controlled simulation environments are becoming increasingly effective in research and education. The new high-performance multi-projector CAVE at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia is an immersive virtual reality system that uses gesture recognition for communication. The intuitive understanding of gestures as inputs allows users to seamlessly navigate their way around the virtual object in CAVE and study it deeper.
On the other hand, businesses are using gesture-recognition technology to collect consumer behavioural data that has been impossible until recently. Eye-tracking mechanisms to track consumer response to advertising messages are gaining popularity among advertisers. Gaze, facial expression and eye movements may soon be captured by online as well as outdoor ads that would help advertisers provide more relevant and targeted ads to the consumers.
The Manufacturing industry is not left behind. It is adopting gesture controlled devices not only as a cost-saving measure but also to increase efficiency. For instance, manufacturers are replacing Graphical User Interface (GUI) in the production line with Natural User Interface (NUI) that accepts commands in the form of gestures, voice and biometric inputs. In assembly lines, where employees work in dusty environments with their gloves on, gestures become a convenient natural replacement for keyboards, mouse or even the touch screen.
As a new and convenient input mechanism, there is immense potential for gesture-recognition technology across industries. Facilities like safety equipment for mining workers, hands-free driving, and touch-free telecommunication are only the start to the revolution gesture control is set to initiate. Where do you reckon the future lies?