SoundWave: Control PC with Kinect-like Gestures [Doppler Effect]

We love Gestures, don’t we? Whether its your multitouch screen or a Kinect gameplay, not having to make enough effort to get things done serves our taste buds.

Microsoft Labs is betting on Kinect-like gestures everywhere. The new thing would be achieved without the complex Kinect hardware, a motion sensing gadget everyone was excited about since 2010. Kinect has been popular among Xbox users as well as Open source hackers who made DIY projects like no other gadget has seen before.

Microsoft’s research team is now about to get official with Kinect for Windows PC. The new Tech is called SoundWave and it is official Microsoft method to control software installed on a computer through the use of hand-based gestures.

With SoundWave, you can control software with the help of a set of speakers and an attached microphone.

Camera, they feel is not the best suited input device on a windows PC. You can see the prototype of SoundWave in action today, however this project may or may not see light of the day. SoundWave shows that it even works along nicely with ambient sounds, such as music.

How SoundWave works

SoundWave can use your existing speakers to generate high frequency tones in the ultrasonic non-audible frequencies range i.e. between 18-22 kHz. This Real time technology then uses the attached microphone to pick up any reflected signal that is generated by hand motions and estimates the motion based on the frequency shifts. Well, what does that do? You hand movement creates an scientific phenomenon you may know as the popular Doppler Effect.

The technology can use change in frequency, amplitude and phase of the sound to detect Gesture inputs.
The possibilities are really endless (as you would see in the video) and to begin with it can be used to automatically lock and unlock your PC based upon your movement away or towards the PC. It works well in any noisy environment. Check it out demoed below:

The technology is extremely intuitive but doesn’t come without a number of limitations. One of the limitations is the distance a user has to be from the PC for the gestures. And not to forget, some humans are capable of hearing high-frequency sounds, especially children and pets. It can be extremely annoying for them.

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