Over the past 18 years, Microsoft’s Research Division (MSR), a large group of
computer researchers in key locations worldwide, has come up with some
interesting and useful technologies, as well as a few that may seem on the
wackier side of things.
For instance, MSR was largely responsible for creating Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:
tabletop computer, which is now beginning to realize the technology’s
practical applications in commercial deployments.
Now, among the most recent developments out of MSR are technologies that
enable a user to control a computer’s interface by merely flexing his or her
muscles. Two recently published Microsoft patent applications seem to be
pointing the way toward what could become practical developments in that area.
The patent applications were published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office (USPTO) on December 31 — the applications were filed in March 2009 and
in June 2008.
According to a video
posted on MSR’s site, muscle-computer interaction could be used to let a user
interact with a computerized device while his or her hands were full through a
technology called “electromyography,” or EMG.
As an example of how it might be used, the video shows a person with both
hands full able to electronically open the trunk of a car without setting
anything down through flexing hand muscles.
One of the two patent applications describes the
technology as a “wearable electromyography-based controller [which] provides a
physical device, worn by or otherwise attached to a user, that directly senses
and decodes electrical signals produced by human muscular activity using surface
electromyography (sEMG) sensors. The resulting electrical signals provide a
muscle-computer interface for use in controlling or interacting with one or more
computing devices or other devices coupled to a computing device.”
The other patent application concerns a system to
train the software to recognize certain finger movements as commands as well as
a training system to enable the software to “learn” which gestures (groups of
muscle flexes) are meaningful.
Since its founding in 1991, MSR has played an often-overlooked role in many
small, and a few larger, technological innovations.
MSR played a role in developing Microsoft’s forthcoming camera-driven games
controller, dubbed Natal, which enables users to control games with
just the movements of their own bodies. Natal is currently slated to launch
commercially in November.
Recently, MSR computer scientists also participated in the development of
automated technologies meant to help identify child pornography online. That
technology, called PhotoDNA,
will be available to Internet service providers through the National Center for
Missing & Exploited Children.
At the same time, some other technologies may seem to be little less
practical — at least for now — such as one researcher’s efforts to record every minute of his life for later
Another recent patent application aims to make users’ online avatars reflect their human physical conditions
online — so if the user is overweight, the user’s avatar could mirror that.
Microsoft rarely comments on patent applications and whether it has plans to
commercialize particular inventions. A company spokesperson declined to comment
for this article.
Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.