How Wii Started a Movement in Gesture Based Control

How Wii Started a Movement in Gesture Based Control


It was back at the turn of the century, I'm talking 2001, when Nintendo began research into what would become the most innovative games controller of all time. When the Wiimote launched in 2005 it brought gesture based control into the homes of millions. Suddenly you could play tennis, go bowling or swordfight, using gestures to control the action. Free from hand-cramping button pushing we found a new freedom in our interaction with our beloved games. And now the magic of gesture control is starting to appear everywhere.

Initially it was just single sensor responses: now we hardly notice if a door opens as we approach or if lights come on when we enter a room. The key area of development has been to create devices which can read a variety of gestures, like the Wiimote does, and respond accordingly. We're used to touch screen technology on our tablets, gesture control takes that a step further. The phone apps which enable gesture control have been around for a while now. 'Side Control', 'Air-Call Accept', 'iGesture Control' are all apps which enable you to personalise your smart phone by devising and programming gesture controls. The partypoker mobile app has also been around for a while now and it's a good example of gesture control being deployed in a natural and appropriate way rather than as an awkward bolt-on novelty. It enables on-line players to use the gestures that they would use at a real table to place bets or discard cards.

A more sophisticated gesture control app for iPhone is Halide. This transforms your iPhone camera into a professional tool with a complex range of variables, all of which can be controlled by gesture. The really exciting development is that gesture control is now moving from manipulation of a virtual world to the control of real physical objects. The DJI Spark is a video drone that fits in the palm of your hand and can be controlled by the palm of your hand. You can control its direction of flight and you can send it up to thirty feet and take a selfie. You're going to need a control pad for anything more than basic flying but still, a gesture control drone for under $500 is pretty cool.

Gesture control is also about to become a tool that can really help people. Think Stephen Hawkins and you realise that this technology has the power to transform lives. Control of vehicles by gesture would enable millions of people currently unable to drive to have access to personal mobility. That dream may be some way off yet but BMW have expanded their gesture controls from the 2016 7 Series with AirTouch and PSA Peugeot Citroen have been working for some time on a 'Time of Flight' camera which would enable 'precise recognition of finger movement'. And if you've given up on ever seeing anything like Minority Report technology in real life then take hope from Israel based PointGrab who are ready to launch a complete in-home gesture control system. It really seems that a gesture control future is just around the corner and it all began with the Wii.

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