New battery-free remote: your finger

If you use all of your fingers at once, you'll just confuse it
If you use all of your fingers at once, you'll just confuse it

The first CEBIT story of 2009 is a strange one - a system called iPoint 3D that lets you use your fingers as a remote control.

The new gadget lets people communicate with a 3D display through simple gestures – without touching it and without 3D glasses or even a Minority Report-style data glove.

It's been developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut (HHI), and will be unveiled at CEBIT on March 3.

No longer rude to point

At the heart of iPoint 3D is a recognition device that can be suspended from the ceiling or integrated in a coffee table. The system responds instantly, as soon as someone in front of the screen moves their hands and no physical contact or special markers are involved.

It works using two built-in cameras to detect hands and fingers in real time and transmit the information to a computer.The two cameras are inexpensive, off-the-shelf video cameras connected by Firewire.

HHI boffins envisage the iPoint 3D being used in gaming (naturally), as well as offices, kitchens and even hospitals.

"Since the interaction is entirely contactless, the system is ideal for scenarios where contact between the user and the system is not possible or not allowed, such as in an operating room," says lead researcher Paul Chojecki.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.