Microsoft Research has published a project on its website for a low-cost electric field sensing concept. This allows for a transparent and thin receiver to detect 3D finger and hand tracking, combined with in-air gestures on mobile handsets. It's a cool implementation, which can be utilized in a compact form factor that is resilient to ambient illumination.
Everything designed by the team has been possible thanks to off-the-shelf chips that eliminate the requirement to develop custom electronics to achieve similar results. As well as the physical electronics, Microsoft Research has also presented a learning algorithm for mapping from signal measurements at the receivers to 3D positions. Check the video for a visual walkthrough.
So why is this concept better than similar implementations? There's the low-cost factor, as well as resilience to ambient light and the fact Microsoft can perform everything in a more compact form factor. Then you have high frame rate sensing (at around 200hz) and low power consumption. Microsoft is also working on gestures and keyboards.
Remember when we joked about Jedi hand gestures and Windows Phone with the Glance screen? The force is strong with this one.
Source: Microsoft Research