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London - 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 and Microsoft Research Cambridge. 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. It is more than just a remote control, in the future everyone would have just one wrist-sensor to control all their gadgets.
“The idea is that you programme it to recognise a hand movement, such as turning a knob, and this will then control the volume on the device it is connected to. Or a thumbs up could answer the phone – the user can choose any gesture that suits them.”
The prototype was launched on Monday at an international conference in the US on human-computer interaction held in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
David Kim, a Microsoft Research PhD student at Newcastle University, said: “Ultimately, we would like to reduce Digits to the size of a watch that can be worn all the time.
“We wanted users to be able to interact spontaneously with their electronic devices using simple gestures without even having to reach for them.
“Can you imagine how much easier it would be if you could answer your mobile phone while it’s still in your pocket or buried at the bottom of your bag?” - Daily Mail