May 8th, 2006
Atlas Gloves is a DIY physical interface for controlling 3D mapping applications like Google Earth. The user interface is a pair of illuminating gloves that can be used to track intuitive hand gestures like grabbing, pulling, reaching and rotating. The Open Source Atlas Gloves application can be downloaded here and operated from home using a webcam and two self-made illuminating gloves (or flashlights).
How Does It Work?
The user stands in front of a large scale projection of the earth with a special set of illuminating gloves on their hands. By gently squeezing each glove, an LED turns on, which is translated by the computer into navigational commands. The user is then free to fly above the world, zooming in and out, tilting, rotating at their leisure.
A small camera attached to a computer translates each LED-enabled gesture into a set of possible actions: pan, zoom, rotate and tilt. The video tracking functionality is written within the Processing programming framework, in conjunction with Java’s java.awt.Robot library. This robot library converts a special video tracking vocabulary into mouse clicks/releases and cursor movement in order to control the computer. Separating out the tracking and control interface in this way provides a flexibility such that Atlas Glvoes can be used with a variety of applications.
The process of developing Atlas Gloves was an interesting mix of trial-and-error, user testing and stumbling onto solutions in rare “Eureka!” moments. It was very satisfying creating physical tools for new forms of interaction. We also learned that crappy old-school cameras are far better suited to this kind of application than the fancy new stuff they make now.
Thanks to Tom Igoe for guiding us along the right path, Dan O’Sullivan for providing the basis of the video tracking code and Todd Holoubek for helping us discover the Java Robot library.
Atlas Gloves was developed in ITP - NYU’s Interactive Telecommunication Program.