Are Gesture Controls a Good Fit for Mobile Devices?
Gesture control has been making the rounds in recent headlines, largely thanks to the debut of Microsoft’s new Kinect sensor and start-ups like Leap Motion. There appears to be solid demand for gesture-based device control, but what’s being done in the area of mobile?
Samsung recently premiered Air Gestures on select Galaxy smartphones, giving users the ability to do things like answer calls, view pictures and rearrange their homepage with the wave of a hand. But the questions remains, do gesture controls solve a problem or over complicate our devices?
Gesture-based controls and the mobile landscape
Are gesture controls even a good fit for mobile devices? Yes and no. The problem facing this technology lies in the way consumers tend to use their mobile technology. Our smartphones and tablets have allowed us to accomplish tasks such as sending and receiving email, checking social networks and even capturing special moments.
So far, mobile devices have traditionally found their greatest use when held in our tech-hungry hands. This reality doesn’t paint a promising picture for gesture controls, suggests Christopher Noessel, an expert interface designer. “Minority Report made a lot of people want gesture for everything. But as anyone with a Wii or Kinect knows, gesture is inelegant and can be exhausting, even when it’s fun. Imagine the drudgery of trying to write a book using a gestural interface. Misery,” Noessel explains.
Without providing marked improvement over current touch controls, utilizing gesture controls for navigating smartphones and tablets may not be the best way to take full advantage of the technology. Can the average user really see himself walking down the street and waving one hand as if performing an air guitar solo, all just to open up his SMS app? It’s probably easier to tap the screen a couple times and be on your way.
Apple gestures to iOS 7
Despite the apparent concerns with gesture controls, developers and manufacturers shouldn’t be discouraged. There’s still plenty of room to innovate this fledgling technology, and the major mobile players know it. Apple has recently made multiple moves that hint at forthcoming gesture control integration in iPhones and iPads.
With rumors of a potential buyout of PrimeSense (the company behind the Kinect gesture technology), along with motion controls hidden in iOS 7 development versions, the question isn’t if gesture-based controls will find their way to Apple devices, but when.
Accessibility is a natural fit
For individuals with physical limitations, being able to control a mobile device with the nod of a head or even the tiniest eye movement can open up a whole new world of technology. The handicapable community rejoiced once Apple released the AssistiveTouch interface for the iPhone 4S, but that software still required a fair amount of touching.
Once iOS 7 is released, users with disabilities will be able to rifle through their on-screen icons simply by turning their head. Although this innovation was made with the disabled in mind, the technology behind it offers exciting prospects for people of all facilities.
The future of gesture controls really gets exciting when we start talking about wearable mobile technology. This hands-free arena could become a hotbed for gesture innovations. A fantastic example of such forward thinking is Thalmic Lab’s MYO armband.
The MYO armband uses the electrical activity in your muscles to wirelessly control your phone, tablet and other connected devices. As the MYO demo video shows, this wearable will come in handy whether you’re cooking in the kitchen or pitching an idea to a client.
With over 30,000 pre-orders and plans to support both Android and iOS through comprehensive application programming interfaces, the MYO could become the leader of gesture-based technology, especially if they hit their late 2013 launch date.
While gesture-based motion controls may seem like a novelty in some applications, there is a very real opportunity for the technology to improve our mobile lifestyles. By helping the disabled utilize modern touch-based interfaces and simultaneously allowing us to become one with our fruit-slaying ninja selves, gesture controls have made a fine case for their importance in today’s mobile culture.
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