Microsoft Research creates low-cost, transparent sensor for 3D hand and finger tracking

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

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • Oh yeah
  • Bring it to market!
  • Exactly
  • That is a very cool project. Almost sounds similar to the Kinect but in a more compact package.
  • Thats actually what I've been waiting for to be developed
  • They said the rumored Surface mini might get this technology. Let's hope it doesn't take up a lot of RAM, like how the X1 uses the Kinect. :-/
  • First let surface reach other countries
  • I don't think so really
  • Minority Report
  • Is this related to folksinger... humdinger... Goldfinger? Funny autocomplete.
  • It sure seems similar from what we've heard.
  • Goldfinger will come in 2015 right?
  • Goldfinger????
  • Excellent video and microsoft has patented these features.
  • Maybe they'll pu thit out on the Surface Phone that will never happen
  • is ths applicapable to all lumia devices ? ms capable to do that ? to ditech other dumb anbdroid mobiles :P
  • This is some awesome tech but...WHY the hell are they making this public?! It's like "look what we're doing...copy it and beat us to it!"
  • They have the patent so does it really matter?
  • I kinda agree. This probably would be better off announced as a feature in an upcoming device. That being said, it's still good to see game changing innovation.
  • Its Ms research, they make most things public for the general betterment of tech... Tis why even people that hate microsoft like and respect the research division...
  • To see if there is interest?
  • Wait few days and apple will patent this technology as they did with the keybord decleared last week
  • no 1 can beat kinect tech :D  other than wp no 1 get these type  tech :) atleast ms is frst 
  • Yeah
  • Fast patent it before Apple!
  • Patent has been done very much earlier. I have that pic with me the diagram of goldinger 3d technology
  • Isn't this what the Nokia "Goldfinger" is rumored to have? Interesting.
  • Leap Motion on the phone? Cool
  • I am sorry for my ignorance, but what is this good for?
  • augmented reality
  • Hmm, operating your phone for starters. Once windows and windows phone converge and developers update exe programs for windows threshold, which they can start now. There are many 3d software programs and games that can benefit from this.
  • Now please in english!  Hajaja just kidding I am just a Microsoft fan XD
  • No fingerprints on the screen? They are showing this for phones. How about for desktops and laptops. One complaint for windows 8 is that the screen is too far away for desktop use and some people don't want to put fingerprints on laptop screen. This can't really help desktops. Hopefully a Kinect type system might work in the future. This can be used for laptops though.
  • Microsoft research team is creative!!
  • These are not the droids you're looking for.
  • This is what I was hoping to see with Leap Motion, but it sadly did not prove to make much of a good touch emulator. This might be OK for a phone device... but for a desktop this would be amazing!
    I would love to be able to have gestures for things like the charms menu, scrolling, rotating, etc on my computer without having to actually touch the screen. Maybe they can add kinnect-like gestures for play/pause/next/etc as well? This would also be handy for laptop users stuck on poorly designed trackpads that constantly get gestures like scrolling mixed up with normal mouse navigation. They could have a very simple but reliable touchpad mouse, and then do gestures in front of the screen instead of touching it. The thing about phone though is that there is no avoiding touching the screen, and modern displays are much better than a touchpad when it comes to supporting gestures and direct input commands like 'clicking'. For the phone it addresses a problem that really does not exist... but on a desktop or laptop this would be very useful.
  • This looks pretty cool. We are getting closer to a Minority Report type of system. Hopefully we can see it implemented in a phone soon. Maybe this is the rumored tech of Goldfinger.
  • They now own Nokia. This should be able to become integrated into devices.
  • Besides mobile, this would be of huge benefit whever there is risk of contamination via physcial contact, everywhere from health and dental care to food preparation. (So what if you've got a glove on, if you are touching that dirty screen and then me/my food. Yuck!)
  • Phone I will be your father!
  • This kind of tech suits the Surface-line, household appliances and the like, more than smartphones imo.
  • We love YOU MS!!!  
  • This sounds like Nokia Goldfinger