Computers can now detect and understand body poses and gestures of several people at once, thanks to indefatigable robotics researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.
(Multi-Person Face/Body/Hand Keypoint Detection)
The ability to recognize finger or hand poses, for instance, will make it possible for people to interact with computers in new and more natural ways, such as simply pointing at things.
That will also allow robots to perceive you’re doing, what moods you’re in, and whether you can be interrupted, for example. Your self-driving car could get an early warning that a pedestrian is about to step into the street by monitoring your body language. The technology could also be used for behavioral diagnosis and rehabilitation for conditions such as autism, dyslexia, and depression, the researchers say.
This new method was developed at CMU’s NSF-funded Panoptic Studio, a two-story dome embedded with 500 video cameras, but the researchers can now do the same thing with a single camera and laptop computer.
One of science fiction's greatest and most original authors, Philip K. Dick, described this very idea in his 1955 novel Solar Lottery:
"You're wrong, honey," Al said seriously. "The l-channel is for news and factual information. The s-channel is for pleasure. I enjoy watching this way, but - He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's hand wave control)
Fans of Douglas Adams may recall his description of gesture-controlled device in his 1979 classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.' - HG Winters, 1939.