Known as FingerPing, the proof-of-concept setup was developed by a Georgia Tech team led by PhD student Cheng Zhang. It incorporates a ring that's worn on the thumb, along with a smartwatch-like wristband.
The ring emits a series of acoustic chirps, which travel through the hand in the form of sound waves that are detected by three receivers on the wristband. The specific position in which the hand is being held, however, alters those sound waves. Based on the manner in which they're altered, the wristband is able to determine that hand position.
"The injected sound from the thumb will travel at different paths inside the body with different hand postures," says Zhang. "For instance, when your hand is open there is only one direct path from the thumb to the wrist. Any time you do a gesture where you close a loop, the sound will take a different path and that will form a unique signature."
So far, the system is capable of recognizing 22 different hand gestures, which can be used as pre-programmed commands for tasks such as playing or stopping music. Those gestures include the American Sign Language (ASL) hand symbols from the numbers 1 through 10. According to Zhang, the technology's use as an ASL translator is the long-term goal of the project.
You can see a demonstration of FingerPing, in the following video.
Source: Georgia Tech
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