Students Staff

16 May 2014

It's all in the gesture

Colchester Campus

Szu-Han Chen

Szu-Han Chen

An insight into the future of how we could use ticket and cash machines and a range of other devices has been unveiled in a new research collaboration between the University and BT.

As part of his final year project, computer science student Szu-Han Chen has been working with the telecommunications giant to develop a system where in-air gestures can perform the multi-touch functions we use every day on our mobile tablets and PCs.

The research involved using a small motion detector called Leap Motion, which is designed to be placed upwards on a flat surface to track the motion of human hands and other finger-like tools such as pens and sticks.

Szu-Han developed a software system where, using the Leap Motion, he was able to interact with the computer screen, selecting and moving objects using in-air gestures and not touching the screen or keyboard at all.

Still at an early research stage, the project could offer a new way of using a wide range of devices in the commercial world as well as in the home in a more comfortable, usable, futuristic and exciting way.

“For example, it could also offer up the possibility of ending the problem of losing the TV remote control at home as you would just have to gesture to the TV with your hand to change channel,” explained Szu-Han.

BT employees and Essex students who tested the system found it quick to learn and easy to use and the early signs are that the idea could be developed to be used for a host of different devices - from interactive displays for children in museums to train ticket machines, business presentations and appliances in the home.

The results of the research project will be presented at the prestigious HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) International conference in Crete next month which attracts more than 2,000 people from across the world.


Note to Editors

For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email

A picture of Szu-Han Chen is available on our Flickr site.


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