Thursday, February 15, 2007

Control the Earth with some lights

When João Bordalo gave the tip, I decided to try Atlas Gloves myself and discovered that it's really fun to have this "Minority Report"-like interfaces where you can control the computer with just a pair of custom lights and a webcam.

For sometime now, I was curious on this kind of technology related to Image Segmentation and this Atlas Gloves idea was just the kick I needed to start doing my own research on the subject. Amazingly, the technology is really simple and obeys some very simple principles that anyone with little computation skills can develop.

So, with a lot of "Googling" I found the basic tools to work with the technology and decided to implement my very own Google Earth controller, which I named GELToC (which stands for Google Earth Led Torch Controller).

By using two led torches like the ones in the figure on the left (but it also worked with flashlights and even with my iPod nano screen) and a webcam, I was able to create an application that processes the light sources (from a dark background) and maps them into mouse control movements, which in turn are converted into Google Earth control movements, giving the illusion that you are controlling the World map with just a pair of tiny lights.

GELToC was developed using the Java Programming Language. It uses the JMF (Java Media Framework) API to access images from the webcam and it uses the java.awt.Robot Class to control the mouse.

Check out the demo video below:

GELToC is an open source application and you can obtain more information on it here.
Future steps of this technology include improving the application in order to use the led torches to control the all computer environment and not only specific applications such as Google Earth.

I need some "beta testers" for the application, so give it a try and then let me know of your experience :-)