The software may need some refinement; one early tester I know said it works great until you want to do something; there's (so far) no gesture equivalent to pressing Enter or clicking the mouse button to tell the computer "do it." You can see the technology at work here:
All these approaches require extra hardware and consume power. Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology think they have a technology that requires neither, making it well suited for smartphones and tablets. The MagGetz project uses the magnetometer built into most smartphones (allowing for the compass capability, for example) to detect the fields of other magnets. Software employs those magnetic perturbations to detect the other magnets' locations. Inventor Sung Jae Hwang tells me this means gestures can occur anywhere around the device, not just in a confined area above a screen, as in the case of the Galaxy S 4, or above a detector, as in the case of the Leap.
But the MagGetz approach requires you to have some sort of magnetic pointers to interact with the magnetometer, so you can't use hand or finger gestures with it. That suggests the technology will be more fitting for interaction with pen-supporting devices (like Samsung's Note tablet and smartphone) or glove-based interactions (as in medical uses). You can see the technology in use here:
Although spatial gesture technology's roots are decades old, often derived from robotic vision systems, we're witnessing it crossing into the consumer electronics world as the underlying technologies have become miniaturized, processing capabilities have accelerated, and user familiarity increases interest in developing it further. That's the same trajectory we saw for voice-recognition technology, which also has been promised for decades but only recently (think Siri) has begun to be workable in common computing environments.
As with voice recognition, spatial gesture technology needs further refinement and will benefit from continued leaps in computing capability. But it's coming.
This article, "3D gestures: Coming to a screen near you," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.