Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played human-alien philosopher and first officer Mr Spock in the original Star Trek TV series, may have beamed up to a better place, but his legacy, and that of the series, continues to live on and thrive. So chin up Trekkies and sci-fi fans, it’s not quite goodbye yet. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes are ideas that have spawned from that show. Ideas which continue to live long and prosper.
After all, sci-fi is more than just a movie genre about little green men and epic star ship wars. It inspires futuristic technology, challenging scientists and engineers to turn the radical into the everyday.
Communication devices a la Star Trek? Been there, done that. Robocop’s augmented reality ‘justice visor’? Hello, Google glass. Tron’s virtual reality? Try the Oculus Rift. And remember how Tom Cruise’s character leafed through holographic reports by swiping his hands over them in 2002’s Minority Report? That’s now a reality.
Gesture recognition will change the way we interact with computers. The technology usually involves a standard camera to track hand motions, eye movements or facial expressions, which are then translated into actions on your computer and devices. For instance, instead of physically moving a mouse to move the cursor, you simply point or stare.
Sci-fi tech is no longer fiction, folks. So say thank you, Mr Spielberg. Now get ready to want one.
#1 Myoelectric Armband
The MYO armband (US$149 from www.thalmic.com) by Thalmic Labs lets you control your playlist with a snap of your fingers or scroll through Powerpoint slides without a clicker. Unlike Leap Motion, the MYO armband doesn’t track your movements with a camera. Instead, it relies on myoelectric sensors to pick up electrical impulses in your arm muscles when you move. It then translates those movements into gestures on your devices.
Reasons to covet this: Finally, smudge-free touchscreens!
#2 Leap Motion
What is it: Look ma, no hands! Sort of. This diminutive USB motion sensor device (US$79.99 from www.leapmotion.com) by American company Leap Motion lets users interact with their computers simply by waving their digits around. Using infrared optics and cameras, the device tracks both hands and all 10 fingers so users can flick, pinch and zoom pages without ever touching anything.
Reasons to covet this: You can finally eat and surf without leaving a trail of orange Cheeto dust all over your PC.
Created by an Israel-based company, eyesight lets users control devices by simply pointing at it. The touch-free technology is 100 per cent software-based and only requires a standard camera to work. It. To navigate, move your finger to direct the cursor then push your finger into the air to click like you would a remote controller. Too bad it’s not for consumer use yet.
Reasons to covet this: You’ll have one more thing in common with Tom Cruise than the average Joe.
#4 NUIA eyeCharm
The NUIA eyeCharm, by Munich-based start-up 4titoo, piggybacks on Microsoft’s Xbox motion controller, Kinect, to offer a handsfree way to interact with your computer. The wallet-friendly eye-tracking device (US$60 from http://4tiitoo.com), which comes with a suite of companion apps, lets users scroll through web pages, browse photo albums or launch tools in programmes like PhotoShop by simply shifting their gaze.
Reasons to covet this: Welcome to couch potato nirvana.You may never have to lift a finger to do anything again.
Similar to eyeSight, PointGrab lets users command computers to do their bidding through pointing and is already available on Fujitsu, Acer and Lenovo laptops and computers that run on Windows 8. The Tel Aviv-based company has also developed AirTouch and PointSwitch, technologies that allow users to dim the lights, pull down the shades, adjust the air conditioning and lock/unlock doors by pointing.
Reasons to covet this: It’s like a cooler version of the sound-activated clapper electrical switch without the annoying clapping.
#6 Elliptic Labs
Here’s technology that Batman and his winged companions would appreciate. Instead of cameras, Elliptic Labs uses ultrasound to track hand gestures. Their first-of-its-kind technology is designed to operate on the Windows 8 platform on tablets, smartphones and even cars, and works with run-of-the-mill audio tools on standard devices to translate the reverberations from hand movements into commands.
Reasons to covet this: All you need now is a bat cave and an English butler.
#7 Eye Tribe
If this Danish tech start-up has its way, we’d all be playing Fruit Ninja on our touch-screen devices using only our eyes. The Eye Tribe has been working on affordable eye-tracking technology that will allow users to interface with their devices with their eyes. Their eye tracker device costs US$99 (https://theeyetribe.com) and doesn’t demand hi-tech specs to work (all you need is a basic webcam). Comprising a camera and a high-resolution infrared LED, the rectangular tracker, which can be hooked onto a tablet, tracks user's pupils with sub millimetre precision. While only intended for developers for now, the technology will soon be available in new mobile devices launching soon.
Reasons to covet this: You’ve always wanted looks that could kill? Wish granted.
Express yourself with your fingers. No, not that one! Using a glove fitted with gyroscopes and accelerometers to detect hand movements like the Wii-glove, this technology, which is still being developed by scientists at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, lets wearers write text messages or compose e-mail by writing in the air instead of typing on too-small keyboards.
Reasons to covet this: It looks a little silly waving your mitts around, but your big, fat opposable thumbs will thank you.
#9 Tobii EyeX
Created in Sweden-based lab, Tobii, the Rex is another eye-tracking device that works with any computer running on Windows 8. Slightly thicker than a pen, this USB peripheral sits between a laptop’s screen and deck to capture eye movements and lets users use their peepers in place of a mouse cursor. Unfortunately, Tobii Rex is costly (US$795) and only available to developers for now. A less-pricey consumer version is in the pipeline.
Reasons to covet this: This ingenious gadget takes the term ‘eye power’ to a whole new level. NSmen, you know who you are.
Jedi Mind Control 101
Here’s another reel-to-real tech trend that’s getting both cinephiles and technophiles excited. Any Star Wars fan who's ever fantasised about harnessing the Force of Jedi Knighthood can now see their thoughts translate into action with mind-controlled technology. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. So why use your hands to control your surroundings when you can use your brain? Currently making waves in neuroscience and prosthetic research, brain computer interface projects may some day open new doors for the mobility-impaired to interact with the world around them through electronics. The best part? The revolution has already begun.
#10 Emotiv EPOC
Turn thoughts into action with the Emotiv EPOC (US$399 from https://emotiv.com), which uses a futuristic-looking headset to pick up on your brain waves to tell the selected system what you want to do. When incorporated into an electrical application, EPOC could even be used to control a car or wheelchair.
Reasons to covet this: Did someone say Professor X?
#11 DARPA’s Prosthetic Arm
The age of the Bionic Man may be closer than you imagine. Tapping into the science of mind-control, DARPA is revolutionising the field of prosthetics with bionic limbs that allow amputees to control their new appendages with their thoughts, much like Will Smith’s character in I, Robot. Bulging biceps not included.
Reasons to covet this: You finally stand a chance of beating your cousin Moira at arm wrestling.
#12 Necomimi And Shippo
So this gadget leans more towards the fluffier side of neuroscience, but controlling a pair of wearable furry ears and tail with your thoughts is still pretty doggone fun. Created by Japanese company Neurowear, Necomimi and Shippo (http://neurowear.com) work in conjunction with the NeuroSky headset and react like furry mood rings according to your brainwaves. When you’re calm, the ears flop down and up when you’re excited. Similarly, the tail wags according to your mood: slowly when you’re relaxed, faster when you’re psyched.
Reasons to covet this: Great for clueless boyfriends. No more guessing what mood your girlfriend is in anymore.Score!
#13 Orbit Helicopter
Before you can fly a Jedi Starfighter, you have to first learn to pilot a miniature craft like the Orbit helicopter (US$149 from https://puzzlebox.io/orbit/). Users can fly the Orbit, a small helicopter with propellers that spin inside a spherical cage, by focusing their concentration while wearing the NeuroSky MindWave headband that measures the brain’s electrical activity.
Reasons to covet this: Miniature helicopter today, Jedi Starfighter tomorrow.
By Ki'ern Tan/ March 09, 2015 12:05PM GMT+8
Tags: Tech Storm, TechStorm, TV, Real Technology, High Tech, Jedi, Star Wars, Star Trek, Movement, Future, Futuristic Technology, Technology, Myoelectric Armband, Leap Motion, eyeSight, NUIA eyeCharm, PointGrab, Elliptic Labs, Eye Tribe, Airwriting, Tobii EyeX, Emotiv EPOC, DARPA, Shippo, Necomimi, Orbit, Helicopter
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