3D Computer Interface from Free Flow on Vimeo.

During long winters with indoor heat running overtime, I imagine you’ve built up your fair amount of static electricity, and as the sparks fly, wondered why you couldn’t put that power to some good use.

Working with electrostatics, a team of students at Northeastern University in Boston have done just that. For their senior design capstone project, they assembled a gestural interface which allows 3D control just by waving a hand in front of a computer. That sort of idea is all the rage these days. The difference here: there’s no camera, no IR emitters, no markers or physical controllers.

You just move your hand in three-dimensional space, and the control data is transmitted to the computer. In fact, it’s one of the more touchless interfaces I’ve seen since the father of them all, the Theremin.

That does appear to be a blanket underneath their hand. Now, being the glutton for punishment I am, I want to figure out a way to do this in which there are sparks.

More on this project as I learn about it, but it looks like it’s got some great potential. The bottom line to me is that there’s every reason to begin interacting with three-dimensional onscreen interfaces using spatial physical interfaces. Joysticks and mice actually do a reasonably good job, but they don’t cover the entire gamut of what’s possible. Now it’s up to the software to start using that control data.