[NetBehaviour] [vel] gesture-based user interface (fwd)

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Feb 17 16:25:35 CET 2010

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 2010 09:05:10 EST
From: FrancesVanScoy at aol.com
Subject: [vel] gesture-based user interface


New York Times
February 15, 2010, 6:58 pm
You, Too, Can Soon Be Like Tom Cruise in ‘Minority Report’

Hollywood imitates life. And sometimes life imitates Hollywood.

John Underkoffler, who led the team that came up with the interface that
Tom Cruise’s character used in the 2002 movie “Minority Report,” co-founded a
company, Oblong Industries, to make the gesture-activated interface a

Using special gloves, Mr. Underkoffler demonstrated the interface — called
the g-speak Spatial Operating Environment — on Friday at the annual TED
conference in Long Beach, Calif., a series of lectures by experts across a
variety of technologies.

He pushed, pulled and twisted vast troves of photos and forms that were on
a screen in front of him, compressing and stretching as he went. He zoomed
in, zoomed out and rotated the images using six degrees of control. In one
part of the demonstration, he reached into a series of movies, plucked out a
single character from each and placed them onto a “table” together where
they continued to move. (Oblong has released its own demonstration video).

In this conception of computing, the input and the output occupy the same
space — unlike a conventional computer, in which the mouse and computer
keyboard are separate from the screen, where the changes appear. Even the
Nintendo Wii game console, which responds to gesture and motions, often projects
that motion onto an on-screen figure.

Mr. Underkoffler said this gesture technology was already being used in
Fortune 50 companies, government agencies and universities, and he predicted
that it would soon be available for consumers. “I think in five years’ time,
when you buy a computer, you’ll get this,” he said.

In fact, consumers will get the first taste of gesture-based interfaces
later this year. As The Times reported last month, Microsoft, Hitachi and PC
makers are on the brink of rolling out game consoles, televisions and
computers that use gestures to control the machines.

Gesture-based interfaces are among the most significant advances in
computer interface design since the mid-1980s, and they are part of a trend of
accelerating advances in how humans interact with computers.

Oblong officially came out of stealth mode in November 2008, but Mr.
Underkoffler said the TED demonstration was the public “coming out” of the company
’s technology. Oblong, which is based in Los Angeles, now has around 25

The old model of “one human, one machine, one mouse, one screen” is passe,
said Mr. Underkoffler, who spent 15 years at the MIT Media Lab before
co-founding Oblong.

Mr. Underkoffler was working at the MIT Media Lab when Alex McDowell, the
production director for “Minority Report,” visited in search for ideas for a
fictional world set five decades into the future. Mr. Underkoffler was
hired to be a science consultant for the film, with a particular emphasis on a
computer interface that would be used in some key scenes.

In developing the vocabulary of motions and gestures for the actors, he
deepened his understanding of how humans interacted with the technology. In
filming, the actors were mostly miming and the images of projected data were
added later, making the entire situation seem real.
The experience sharpened Mr. Underkoffler’s desire to make the technology
into something commercially viable.

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