Gesture Based Computing “On the Cheap”

A very common obstacle we have encountered in looking at ICT4D programs is a general misunderstanding of certain symbols and icons that might be used on certain technologies. Gesture based computing helps offer a solution to this problem, as gestures tend to be much more natural and to some degree universal. Gesture based computing can use basic webcams to pick up on gestures given by hands that have been in some way colored. Older models employed neon tape on figure tips, but an MIT student has designed a new method. Robert Wang, an MIT graduate student, and Jovan Popavic an associate professor are responsible for the newly designed system that promises a cheap alternative to most high cost designs.

Their model uses multi-colored lycra gloves and a basic computer webcam. Their system is able to translate hand gestures to a 3D image on the computer’s screen with almost no lag time. The lycra glove can be manufactured for about US$1, making it very viable for use in ICT4D projects. The only other necessary tool is a computer with a functioning webcam, which could present a valid obstacle to the systems use in ICT4D. Though Wang recognizes that the most practical use for the program is in gaming, he hopes that its use can slowly be expanded, especially in engineering and design centered jobs.

The 2011 Horizons report lists gesture based computing as a developing technology with good potential for further development. Though there doesn’t seem to be a very practical application for gesture based computing in ICT4D as of yet, I feel that this is something that should be developed further. Gesture based computing has the ability to help alleviate a lot of cultural and language barriers in ICT4D programs, and the affordability of this particular design makes it especially relevant to ICT4D.


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