Teresa Escrig

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Microsoft’s new sensors: Humantenna and SoundWave

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After the Kinect sensor, Humantenna and SoundWave are two new sensors that Microsoft is working on together with the University of Washington in Seattle.

Humantenna uses the human body as an antenna to pick up the electromagnetic fields — generated by power lines and electrical appliances — found in indoor and outdoor spaces. Users wear a device that measures the signals picked up by the body and transmits them wirelessly to a computer. By studying how the signal changes as users move through the electromagnetic fields, the team was able to program the system to identify 12 gestures, such as a punching motion or a swipe of the hand, with more than 90 percent accuracy.

Humantenna requires users to wear a sensor. They are still working in its robustness.

SoundWave relies on an inaudible tone generated by a laptop’s loudspeaker. When a hand moves in front of the laptop, it changes the frequency of the tone, which the computer’s microphone picks up. By matching characteristic frequency changes with specific hand movements, SoundWave can detect certain gestures with an accuracy of 90 percent or more, even in noisy environments such as a cafeteria.

Human-[robot/computer/machine] interaction can get huge benefits from these two new sensors.

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