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The end of the click?

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The way we interact with our computers is changing thanks first to touch screens and now a new laser and camera interface that takes us another step towards the man/machine.

Young people are growing up learning how to use computers from an ever-earlier age. But increasingly their first experience of manipulating microprocessors is by pointing, touching, pinching and swiping.

Now a prototype from Cambridge’s Microsoft Research UK turns the user’s hand itself into a computer remote control. Called the Digit, the device is worn on the user’s wrist. LEDS and lasers shine from this bracelet and cameras record the movement of the fingers.

The team behind the project – which has been born out of Microsoft’s own Xbox Kinect system – say they can measure finger movements with an accuracy of one hundredth of a centimetre.

In its current form, unveiled this month on Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Digit is still quite clunky, but in time should be wristwatch sized.

And Digit isn’t alone in trying to kill off – or at least significantly reduce the influence of – the mouse. A desk-mounted system called the Leap Motion Sensor is also in development.

And, the Google giant is also part of the picture thanks to its Project Glass. This futuristic piece of face furniture puts a computer display directly in front of the user’s eyes. It’s the sort of thing seen in military aviation in the form of the heads up display, but looks far more like something you’d get from Specsavers than the Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition.

By combining the two and linking us ever closer to our computers we could, paradoxically, be freed from the click of the mouse.

Already, Digit has been used to control games and to help kids who use sign language to interact with a computer. But, it could go much further according to Thad Starner, who’s in charge of Google’s Project Glass, who named it “a symbiosis of man and machine that we haven't seen before".

He said: “Having access to data on a split-second basis makes you more powerful, more in control of your life. This is going to get us to the stage where we use systems without thinking.”

You can see a video demonstration of Digit here. (Video link)


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