'Minority Report' Technology Comes a Step Closer to Reality

April 30, 2014
By: Rory J. Thompson

In the 2002 sci-fi film “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise plays a futuristic police chief who manipulates multiple virtual computer screens by waving his hands in front of them. He looks like a maestro conducting an orchestra, and the resulting visual is pretty stunning.

Fast-forward now to 12 years later, and Cruise’s fiction appears to be becoming reality…of a sort.

According to a report in PCWorld, “Microsoft’s (News - Alert) research division has developed a keyboard that can interpret basic hand gestures, potentially bridging a gap between touch devices and more traditional input methods.” How this will play out for the general public remains to be seen, but the possibilities and opportunities for an expansion of this technology seem endless.

“Presented at the Computer Human Interaction (CHI) conference in Toronto, the prototype keyboard has 64 sensors that detect the movement of hands as they brush over the top of the keyboard,” PCWorld says. “Swiping a hand over the left or right side, for instance, can bring up left and right side menus in Windows 8. The main goal is for users to be able to keep their hands on or very close to the keyboard while typing and using input gestures,” Stuart Taylor, a Microsoft senior research engineer, told the publication.


Tom Cruise in "Minority Report." Image via The Telegraph

While using fingers or hands to scroll though pictures or menus on a smart device is commonplace, keyboards are another issue.

The Microsoft team has been working on the project for about 18 months and will continue to refine the gesture interpretation, PCWorld says. “The sensors on the keyboard are in pairs, with one sensor emitting infrared light and the other reading the light reflected back. It’s not unlike the technology in Microsoft’s Kinect gaming system.”

As the unit is still in the beta stage, there are no public, long-term plans for commercialization, Microsoft has said.  But with touchless keyboards at hand (so to speak), can other touchless apps be far behind?




Edited by Alisen Downey