Breaking Research

Fingertip device helps computers read hand gestures

Fingertip digitizer is expected to have potential for a range of applications.

Fingertip digitizer is expected to have potential for a range of applications.

With the tap of a single finger, computer users soon may be drawn deeper into the virtual world.

Researchers in UB’s Virtual Reality Lab say their “Fingertip Digitizer,” which users wear on the tip of the index finger, can transfer to the virtual world the meaning and intent of common gestures, such as pointing, wagging the finger, tapping in the air or other movements that can be used to direct the actions of an electronic device.

What’s more, the Fingertip Digitizer can transfer to personal computers very precise information about the physical characteristics of an object—and even can sense the shape and size of a human gland or tumor—when a user taps, scratches, squeezes, strokes or glides a finger over the surface of the object.

“The gesture-recognition function of this device, in particular, has great potential for a wide range of applications, from personal computing to medical diagnostics to computer games,” says Young-Seok Kim, PhD ’06 & MS ’01, who created the Fingertip Digitizer with Thenkurussi Kesavadas, director of UB’s Virtual Reality Lab and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “With this device, a computer, cell phone or computer game could read human intention more naturally,” says Kesavadas.