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'imaginary' Interface Could Replace Real Thing

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Imaginary Interfaces demonstration

A user draws an imaginary line in the operating plane of the Imaginary Interfaces device.

Credit: Hasso Plattner Institute

German researchers are developing Imaginary Interfaces, an interface system for mobile devices that would replace the screen and keyboard with gestures supported by visual memory.

Imaginary Interfaces uses a small, chest-mounted computer and camera to detect hand movements. "We definitely envision a system like this replacing all input for mobile devices," says Potsdam University research student Sean Gustafson. The camera is equipped with a ring of light-emitting diodes that project invisible infrared light. The camera sees this light reflected by the nearby gesturing hands but the background is not illuminated.

There are two basic commands used to operate Imaginary Interfaces. Making an "L" shape creates a two-dimensional plane where the finger-tracing interaction takes place. Users also can "pinch" to select a point in space on the plane that can serve a function. "We are exploring how users can sketch interfaces, then use them," says Potsdam professor Patrick Baudisch.

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