The Camera on Your Wrist That Can Answer a Phone

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick McDermott

FRANTICALLY hunting for your mobile phone to answer a call may soon be a thing of the past.

Scientists have developed a sensor, worn on the wrist like a watch, which allows the wearer to control any electronic device with a simple wave of the hand.

The gadget uses a minute camera to track hand movements and can recognise specific gestures, which it translates into commands - such as a thumbs up to answer the phone.

Because it does not rely on fixed external sensors, such as those found on games consoles, it can be used outside the home.

And, as it connects wirelessly with other electronic equipment, users can control items such as mobile phones without holding them - even if they are in a bag or another room.

But it cannot do everything - users will have to use a headset or earphones to have a conversation if their mobile is not within reach.

The project, called Digits, was developed by researchers at Newcastle University in England and Microsoft Research Cambridge in America. The scientists say it could even allow people to use cash machines and chip and PIN devices more securely by entering their information from inside their pocket.

The sensor can track a user's fingertip movements in the dark, reading them as if they were typing on a keypad before transmitting the code to the bank's device.

The researchers said one of the biggest advantages of the device is that it leaves the hand free - unlike the data gloves which are often worn to interact with virtual reality applications. Patrick Olivier, a professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Newcastle University, who has worked on the prototype, said: 'It allows you to use everyday gestures or move your fingers to interact with a whole host of electronic devices and not just in the home. …