The Xbox One’s Kinect may be watching and listening at all times, but it’s still just mostly staring straight ahead at your couch. But motion controls have taken a step forward, as a team of researchers at the University of Washington have developed a system dubbed WiSee (pronounced “We See”) that uses Wi-Fi radio waves to detect human movement and gestures. While motion controls are nothing new, utilizing Wi-Fi makes it possible to pick up motions without motion sensors pointed at the user, anywhere within range.
WiSee can detect movement even in multiple rooms and through walls, and using newer Wi-Fi receivers with multiple input multiple output (MIMO) makes it possible to sort out motions from different people in the same space. The project depends on an algorithm that can track small shifts in the Wi-Fi channel by processing the spectrum in smaller chunks, and then analyzing the small changes in frequency of the waves caused by sudden movement. Though not as precise as Kinect or other camera-based motion sensing technology, it’s remarkably sensitive and practical for multiple uses.
WiSee is able to detect and identify nine different gestures with 94% accuracy, and the team says that the next version of the system will be able to recognize sequences of gestures and accept a wider “vocabulary” of commands. “The intent is to make this into an API where other researchers can build their own gesture vocabularies,” said Shwetak Patel, one of the lead researchers.
The team has successfully used it to control electronic devices for purposes such as changing the channel on TV or turning on and off the lights, and anticipate many household applications. They acknowledge that they will have to introduce new improvements to the technology to prevent unauthorized use and restrict it to a specific area with a ‘geofence’. The research team has submitted their work to the 19th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking, held in late September this year.