Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a system that can recognize hand gestures based on electrical signals detected in the forearm.
The system, which uses wearable biosensors with artificial intelligence (AI), could one day be used to control prosthetics or interact with almost any electronic device type.
“Prosthetics are one important application of this technology, but besides that, it also offers a very intuitive way of communicating with computers,” said Ali Moin, who helped design the device as a doctoral student at UC Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.
“Reading hand gestures is one way of improving human-computer interaction. And, while there are other ways of doing that, by, for instance, using cameras and computer vision, this is a good solution that also maintains an individual’s privacy.”
To create the hand gesture recognition system, the team collaborated with Ana Arias, an electrical engineering professor at UC Berkeley, to design a flexible armband that can read the electrical signals at 64 different points on the forearm.
The electrical signals are then fed into an electrical chip, which is programmed with an AI algorithm capable of associating these signal patterns in the forearm with specific hand gestures.
The team succeeded in teaching the algorithm to recognize 21 individual hand gestures, including a thumbs-up, a fist, a flat hand, holding up individual fingers, and counting numbers.
The new wearable device uses a type of advanced AI called a hyperdimensional computing algorithm capable of updating itself with new information.
Gesture recognition has seen some momentum in the past few years.
This year, we saw a new Apple Watch Band accessory called the Mudra band that lets users interact with their Apple Watch touch-free.
Apple has also been actively pursuing research on gesture-based user interfaces.
The company’s research focused on detecting user’s motion and gesture input via arm or finger movements using myoelectric sensors.
It is unknown which of the leading wearable makers will unveil gesture recognition on their devices in 2021.
Still, given the rumors of a revamped Apple Watch, we could soon see thinner Apple Watches with gesture recognition.