Microsoft Research have revealed a new motion controller called Digits. It’s essentially like a mini Kinect that straps on your wrist to track your hand & finger movements, as you can see in the video above. (Before anyone says it looks clunky please note that it’s just a prototype using off-the-shelf components, obviously the final product will look a lot sleeker and probably just like a big watch.) It also reminds me of Spider-Man‘s web-shooters, I’m already surprised there isn’t a Spider-Man Kinect game yet (beyond being able to play as Spider-Man in Marvel Avengers: Battle For Earth) so I’ll be even more surprised if there isn’t a Spider-Man game that uses Digits if/when it’s released since the combination of Kinect & Digits would be absolutely perfect!

For the full info about how Digits works go to the Microsoft Research website source link for a lengthy article and a longer video. Here’s an excerpt from the article specifically of interest to us Kinect gamers:

Another exciting application area for Digits is in gaming. Currently, Kinect for Windows and commercial game consoles do not support finger tracking. Digits could be complementary to these existing sensing modalities; one option could be to combine Kinect’s full-body tracker with Digits’ high–fidelity freehand interaction.

At present, because of the technical challenges in sensing a full 3-D hand pose, most systems constrain the problem by limiting hand tracking to 2-D input only or by supporting interaction through surfaces and other tangible mediators.

“By understanding how one part of the body works and knowing what sensors to use to capture a snapshot,” Kim says, “Digits offers a compelling look at the possibilities of opening up the full expressiveness and dexterity of one of our body parts for mobile human-computer interaction.”

David Kim Interview

The website IEEE Spectrum also have an article about Digits and a video interview with one of its creators, David Kim. Here’s an excerpt from the article and the video interview below that:

A new motion capture gadget from Microsoft Research provides all the control of a 3-D gaming glove. But Digits is a wrist worn sensor that leaves you barehanded and free to touch other objects. With an infrared camera, a MEMS motion sensing chip, and some software trickery it creates a 3-D model of your hand that responds to movements with fingertip precision.

The Digits prototype allows the wearer to answer a phone call with a thumbs up, change a television channel with a flick of a finger, play videos games without a controller, translate sign language into text—and maybe even touch type without a keyboard someday.

David Kim, one of the creators, sat down with IEEE Spectrum via Skype to dissect a Digits demo video. Kim is a PhD fellow at Newcastle University who works with the Interactive 3-D Technologies group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, the same lab responsible for other crazy augmented reality projects like KinEtre, HoloDesk, and Vermeer.

Digits could easily be built as a watch-sized gadget for every day wear, says Kim. It isn’t anywhere close to market, but here’s hoping.

 Next-Gen Xbox Primary Controller?

Could this be replacing joypads for the next-gen Xbox? I must admit that I have mixed feelings about that since on the one hand Digits is obviously awesome and combined with Kinect 2 (which all rumours point to being bundled with all next-gen Xboxes) the sky is pretty much the limit for the developers, but on the other hand I think I and pretty much most if not all people would still like a physical joypad to make contact with for at least some games.

Microsoft could include both a physical joypad AND Digits (along with Kinect 2) with the next-gen Xbox but surely that would cost too much unless they’re planning on selling it for more than the Xbox 360 cost when it was first released? (Totally guessing I’d say maybe £50 – £100 extra.) Of course another possibility is that Digits might be sold separately or bundled with AR glasses, codenamed Fortaleza if the leaked documents are true, since some of the clips in the video show an AR display. Although that would of course mean that it would have one of the same issues as the current Kinect where it’s an optional accessory that has to be developed for rather than a controller that all next-gen Xbox owners would already have so some developers might be hesitant to make games for it before it sells a certain amount. Then again, if Digits was bundled with the Fortaleza Glasses I think it would be such an amazing overall package that it should sell at least as well as Kinect if it’s priced right.

What do you think? Would you be OK with Digits replacing joypads for the next-gen Xbox? Would you pay a bit extra for the next-gen Xbox if it included both Digits and a joypad? Or would you rather buy Digits separately, either on its own or bundled with the Fortaleza Glasses? Let us know in the comments below.

Screenshots

 

Source: Microsoft Research's YouTube Channel, Microsoft Research website, IEEE Spectrum's website, IEEE Spectrum's YouTube Channel,