Microsoft Creates Body-Based Home Control

A team at Microsoft Research has tapped into electromagnetism for the ultimate remote.

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Microsoft revolutionized the gaming industry with its Kinect accessory. However, imagine if that motion-sensing technology could be spread to other areas of your home.

At least one guy has already done that using the Kinect. However, a team at Microsoft Research is taking that concept one step further — and without the gaming accessory. Instead of focusing on one set area with a camera, a four-man research team has figured out how to spread your love of home control to every surface of the home. Since motion-sensing cameras probably wouldn’t work in every nook and cranny around the house, this system actually taps into your body’s electromagnetic field.

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“Our goal is to get you the benefits of a large interaction surface everywhere in your house without making you tear out all the drywall and replace it with millions of dollars in sensitive touch screens,” said Dan Morris, a researcher with Microsoft Research.

The idea behind the project is that each one of us is a walking electromagnetic generator, sending out predictable pulses. This new technology detects those pulses, as well as all of the interference that’s coming off of appliances and electrical systems in the home.

In one of the team’s experiments, a subject strapped on a backpack with a laptop and a data acquisition device that was connected to a conductive pad on the back of the person’s neck. As the participant made gestures, the pad picked up voltages and the laptop’s software generated instructions to various light switches.

The electromagnetic noise is so predictable that it could be used to control lighting, A/V equipment, and temperature controls, just by touching a wall. Instead of flipping a switch or tapping a touchpanel, a user might gesture at a wall while a built-in sensor detects the hand’s electromagnetic field and turns on the light. It could even expand the playing field for gaming.

All of the team’s findings were published in a report titled, “Your Noise is My Command: Sensing Gestures Using the Body as an Antenna.”

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