Gesture computing is here! (And it's out of control!)

Each new in-air interface unveiled at CES comes with a different set of gestures to learn

As the dust settles over Las Vegas, it's becoming clear that this year's International CES ushered in a new era of in-the-air gesture control.

TVs, tablets, phones, cars that enable you to control them by waiving, pointing and generally moving your hands in the air were demonstrated at CES.

As Microsoft proved with Kinect for Xbox 360, gesture control is a wonderful interface that really works. But there's one problem, possibly a fatal one for the acceptance of gesture control: There are no standard gestures.

Every new gesture-control device makes you learn a whole new "vocabulary" of hand motions.

The new world of gesture control

The number of companies offering the technology is extensive and growing:

  • Samsung at CES announced new TV sets with built-in cameras and microphones, as well as an in-air gesture and voice control system called Smart Interaction. Another company called PointGrab, which has been making gesture control interfaces for Samsung TVs, announced a new version at the show.
  • There's Leap Motion, which has been getting a lot of attention for technology that uses hand motions to control a PC or laptop user interface or some other device. The company's technology is very open-ended and extensible, making it most useful for further customization by software makers.
  • Leap Motion recently announced a big deal with Asus to integrate the technology -- and got $30 million in new venture financing. The Asus deal should eventually result in built-in gesture control for some Asus laptops and all-in-one desktop PCs.
  • Elliptic Labs showed off a user interface for Windows 8 PCs. It provides gesture control like many other products, but uses ultrasound instead of cameras to determine the location of your hands.
  • Spicebox at CES showed a really interesting hardware-software product called Mauz. You plug a dongle into your iPhone and install the Mauz app. It turns your phone into a mouse for your Mac. More than that, however, it enables you to control the Mac with Wii-like motion control, where the motion of the phone determines the on-screen control. And it also works like Kinect. By using the phone's camera, you can do in-the-air gestures over the phone, which controls on-screen action.
  • Asus introduced a product called the Asus Qube, which is a TV box for streaming Amazon and Netflix content to a TV. The Qube will reportedly support both gesture and voice command.
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