Let Microsoft Research give you 'virtual hands' and touch the VR world

Jazz hands!

Microsoft’s obsession with using body tracking and hand motions for input is well documented. The company has been pushing research and technology in this field for years, and it even brought a number of products to market in the form of the original Kinect, and Kinect v2.

With the reemergence of VR as a realistic consumer technology, Microsoft is looking to marry its long-term passion for motion tracking with the new digital world that we’re all about to be immersed in. And it wants to do so in a way that tricks our minds and bodies into thinking we’re truly in our virtual worlds.

The company’s plans are perhaps best revealed in some of Microsoft’s Research latest projects, where scientists and engineers have finally figured out how to create a very accurate and reliable hand-tracking algorithm. They then used it to scan a user’s movements in real-time and reproduce his or her hands in a virtual environment, letting users manipulate the digital world the same way they would interact with the real one.

The best part of the whole project, dubbed Handpose, is that the technology involved is affordable, widely available and will work with almost any device, even a low-end tablet or laptop. Unlike a Kinect, which comes with its own processing unit, cooler, specialized lenses and so on, the company’s Handpose algorithm requires nothing more than a 3D-sensing camera, like the Intel RealSense model. That being said, Handpose seems to work very well with existing Kinect and other 3D-sensing cameras.

After using the real world 3D input, the algorithm is capable of rendering your hand movements and gestures in real time, with a high degree of accuracy. Microsoft claims that its technology not only knows what your hands and fingers are doing, but “understands the person’s intent”.

In terms of uses, the company envisions a wide range of practical applications, especially when combined with haptic feedback and other tricks that Microsoft is developing for VR. As you can see in the demo above, the potential for use in games is instantly obvious. But researchers believe that everything, from moving around files to building and designing virtual environments, or even learning new skills, could benefit from hand- and movement-tracking technology.

Unfortunately, Handpose and related technologies are still in the research phase, though Microsoft believes that the advances it has made in the field may soon bear market results as well. Given that this mostly relies on software and clever programming, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some product using Handpose sooner rather than later.

Source: Microsoft

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