OK, so we've all got Windows Phone 8.1 installed… what's next? How does the idea of controlling your phone touch-free sound? The idea isn't completely new, but some of Microsoft's patents show that there is serious interest in pushing forward in this area. It may sound slightly futuristic and distant, but the collection of patents brought together by Patent Bolt show that Microsoft's dream could become a reality far sooner than you might think.
Patents filed by Microsoft show designs for tablets and phones that feature two cameras -- one of which is a visible light device, and the other a depth camera. Used in conjunction with each other, it would be possible to track the possible of a user or their finger, and then translate this into on-screen movement -- be that with a visible cursor in the case of a tablet, or an on-screen selection with a phone.
The depth camera means that it is possible for a device to determine how far away the user is, and this can be used to interpret gestures such as taps or double taps. Of course, there is no reason why the same sort of technology could not also be integrated into regular Windows, as it is becoming increasingly common for monitors to include webcams and light sensors -- there is no reason to think that this could not be extended further.
In many ways this is like a mobile version of Kinect, and there are numerous practical as well as entertaining possibilities. If a phone or tablet camera is able to interpret gestures, there is scope for interpreting sign language or other forms of gesticulation as a means of providing input.
While one of Microsoft's patent in this area was applied for way back in 2012, it has only just been published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. This is not indicative that Microsoft has any particular plans to release something specific, but there are clearly plans in motion.
Is touchless interaction something that you could see yourself using? Would you be more inclined to use it on mobile or desktop devices?