Forget Kinect and the Leap Motion, there’s a simpler, cheaper and more adaptable way to add gesture controls to just about anything, and it’s being designed right here in Joburg.

uMotio is a trackpad like sensor that will plug into a PC, laptop, tablet, Raspberry Pi or Arduino board and imbue it with the superpower of being able to detect a hand waving, swiping, pointing or rotating above it. It’s fairly simplistic compared to the 3D tracking and facial recognition capabilities of a Kinect Xbox 360 controller, but it’s also only $50 (R500) if you back the development of final models on Indiegogo now.

One of the lead designers on uMotio, Tom Van den Bon, says that he’s expecting the controller to appeal mostly to hackers and hardware designers in the first instance, but because it’s so simple to use there could be interest from a more mainstream audience too. He’s been testing it as a game controller, he says.

“It uses all the standard HID drivers so there’s no technical experience required to have it work with joystick enabled games or to even control your PowerPoint presentation,” Van den Bon explains, “This also makes it compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac, as well as embedded computers like the Raspberry Pi and the Cubie.

“But our biggest pet peeve with other motion controllers is that it’s not easy to integrate it with your own software or hardware projects. With the Arduino compatibility in uMotio you can easily integrate it into your own hardware projects by just writing new firmware for it, and if you’re a software guy you can easily integrate it into your own apps because all the tracking and gesture data is available over USB.”

Practical applications for the uMotio include controlling equipment in germ-free environments or embedding in marketing kiosk screens, says Van den Bon, and he’s already working on a wireless Bluetooth version for version two. The advantage over a simple motion detector is that uMotio can be used for more than on or off commands – allowing a surgeon to dim lights, for example.

“My two-year-old loves it because he can just wave his hands and have sounds trigger and lights switching on and off,” he says.

The uMotion currently has a detection range of around 15cm, and the code that controls it is fully open source.

More importantly, Van den Bon confirms that uMotio is fully capable of being used as a modern day theramin.

Interested? You can pledge to back uMotio to commercial development over here and see it action below.

 

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.