Star Trek fans may remember a scene in the franchise’s fourth big screen outing where suspiciously accented chief engineer Scotty tries to use a PC by talking to it.
Well we may have laughed back in 1986 when the film came out, but now voice recognition – as demonstrated most recently by Apple’s Siri for the iPhone but familiar to anyone who’s ever used telephone banking or cinema booking hotlines – is commonplace.
In a similar vein gesture recognition may once have seemed like something out of a science fiction movie. Now, however, the increasingly sophisticated motion sensing technologies incorporated in relatively low-cost consumer devices such as the Wii and Xbox games platforms are paving the way for the acceptance of gesture recognition in other areas.
So it’s not a huge leap of faith to assume we are close to seeing digital signage, kiosks and a whole host of consumer tech that will augment ‘traditional’ keyboard and touch interfaces with voice and gesture inputs. Speech recognition, for example, is becoming a standard feature of more and more vehicles, where traditional input methods may have safety implications on the move. In terms of gesture input Intel and Panasonic are just two of the companies that have demonstrated retail information kiosks featuring gesture recognition. And as this video shows, a very cool 3D gesture-based kiosk for a retail environment has been recently demonstrated in Japan.
According to some organisations, voice and gesture recognition is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the evolving human machine interface (HMI). Last year, for instance, IBM’s annual ‘Five in Five’ report reported that scientists in the field of bioinformatics have designed headsets with advanced sensors to read electrical brain activity that can recognise excitement and concentration levels, and the thoughts of a person without them physically taking any actions. With this, literally ‘in mind’, the report predicted that early applications for mind control technology would appear in the gaming and entertainment industry by 2016.
Montgomery Scott would be proud!