March 5, 2013

With gesture, voice or eye control, tech gets more human-centered

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Human-Centered Tech, one our 100 Things to Watch in 2013, is inching its way into stores this year. The theme behind a crop of new products is technology becoming more intuitive rather than requiring people to adapt to it. Gesture control, for instance, feels more natural than operating a mouse. The technology is getting more mainstream and advanced with products like Leap Motion’s upcoming $80 plug-in motion-sensing controller, which lets users operate Windows or Apple computers “in three dimensions,” with hand and finger movements. It’s due in Best Buy stores in May. Later this year, Asus will release the first Leap Motion-enabled PCs. Also expected sometime in 2013: the Myo, an armband that allows users to interact with digital devices by sensing electrical activity in their muscles, and the Mycestro, an index-finger ring that’s described as a “3D mouse.”

Down the road, we’ll likely see devices that incorporate software from Israel-based EyeSight Technologies, which lets users control everything from computers to TVs, in-car infotainment systems and digital ad signage with fingertip movements. Apple and others are pursuing intuitive 3D interfaces using Famo.us, a new Java-based framework.

Voice control is also going more mainstream—for instance, Nuance, maker of the popular Dragon speech-to-text software, is developing voice-activated Dragon TV, Dragon Drive for cars and Dragon Mobile Assistant. Next up is eye control: Samsung’s Galaxy S IV, which launches this month, “will track a user’s eyes to determine where to scroll,” according to a New York Times report. A company named Tobii, whose eye-tracking technology enables users to do things like open and close computer files by blinking, calls this “gaze interaction” and claims it will “bring about the next big change in the way we interact with computers and other devices and systems.”

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