Dancing with Myself

Oh man, this might be it. The key to the smart home, immersive environments, all kinds of things. One of the biggest challenges of developing a practical system was just the amount of sensory equipment that is needed on top of all the enabled devices. You’d have to reconstruct the smart home from the inside out. But a group of researchers at Washington University think they have the answer…use the WiFi itself.

They call the research project WiSee and describe it as “whole-home gesture recognition.” It requires no proprietary equipment, no cameras, nothing but a gesture-enabled wireless router (and, of course, enabled devices). And, since the wireless signal can travel through walls, you only need one.

It works because the human body affects wireless transmissions. The system can detect, interpret, and then act on those disturbances to control your devices. Lifting your hand can turn on the lights. Swiping a finger can change a TV channel. The Harlem Shake can be the panic button that turns on all your lights, locks the door, and calls the police.

The researchers even have a solution to the obvious hurdle to such a system. How does it know when you’re merely moving and when you’re gesturing for the attention of the system. I mean, you don’t want your cardio routine opening up your garage door or a sleepless night in bed sending out a mass email to your friends.

They say you can create a simple startup gesture that alerts the system that you’re about to give it a command. Can even use that pre-gesture as the password for the system.

I like it. It feels right that the direction forward is interacting with the ether. And I suddenly have the impulse to learn sign language.