'Paint' a TV Remote onto Your Coffee Table

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Gesture controls are making their way into all kinds of devices, and it’s even possible to make any surface a touch screen. Now the folks at Carnegie Mellon University have taken the concept a step further. With just a wave of your hand, you can turn any surface into a customized touch screen remote for your TV or an interface for your computer.

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It’s called the WorldKit. With it, you can “paint” a TV remote onto your coffee table, for example. The interface can be moved, modified or deleted with similar gestures, making them highly personalized.

It works using a ceiling-mounted camera that registers where a person’s hand is. A projector puts the image onto a surface (a couch, for example). When the camera senses gestures from the hand, it will tell the computer to engage certain functions such as “painting” for instance, so a user can draw a keyboard. Another gesture will register as the equivalent of a point and click on a mouse or the tap on a tablet screen.

Robert Xiao, an HCII doctoral student and one of the developers, said in a press release that WorldKit doesn’t require any calibration, and that the WorldKit system can work without having to mount cameras on the ceiling — a pretty involved project by any measure. Instead, a person could use a Kinect, which has god quality depth sensors that could fit into something like a light bulb mounted overhead.

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Xiao developed WorldKit with HCII professor Scott Hudson and Chris Harrison, a Ph.D. student. The team will present their work April 30 at CHI 2013, the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, in Paris.

Credit: Chris Harrison/Carnegie Mellon University

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