HP with Leap Motion, Windows 8 and OK Google – motion and voice control the future of computing
A new generation of motion and voice control technologies are revolutionising how we interact with our computers
The way we interact with our computers and laptops is undergoing a revolution.
Windows 8 brought touchscreen computing to the great unwashed last October, and since then we've seen HP unveil plans to have motion control technology embedded in its products, and Google roll out voice-activated search for its Chrome browser.
As well as being embedded in HP computers, Leap Motion will also be available as a separate motion controller bundled with a HP computer. This will be a thumb-size device that plugs into your USB.
With Leap Motion we're set to take one gigantic leap into the future of computing, but first we better tell you what it is and how it works.
Control your computer without touching the mouse or screen
If you're after an idea of its basic principle, think Kinect for your Xbox - but designed to be used at closer range to capture more intricate movements.
Leap Motion's technology allows you to control what's occurring on your computer screen without touching it - yup, that's right: hands free, baby.
It senses how you move your hands naturally to help you point, click and grab your way around your computer without touching the screen, mouse or keys: great news if your tap-tapping really annoys your colleague at work or partner on the sofa at home.
Detect the movement of 10 fingers
Leap Motion says it allows you to "do almost anything without touching almost anything". The technology can detect the movement of up to 10 fingers at the same time.
Just think: that's the movement of each finger on each hand tracked - welcome to the future.
Here's what the Leap Motion controller looks like.
"Our focus at Leap Motion is to fundamentally improve how people interact with their devices, and offer as many ways as possible to achieve that vision," said Leap Motion co-founder and CEO Michael Buckwald.
"The possibilities for innovation are incredible, when you think about what will come from this collaboration between two respected global leaders in their fields - HP, the world's largest technology company and Leap Motion, creator of the world's most powerful 3D motion-control technology."
Leap Motion's technology will be bundled with select HP devices starting this summer, while the technology will start to come embedded in HP devices at some point soon after that.
Devices such as this one from HP could see Leap Motion technology embedded in the future.
One gigantic leap for Windows 8
Windows 8 sent touchscreen computing overground when it launched last year, with the operating system's main feature being colourful tiles which activate apps and programmes when touched.
With Win8 Microsoft redesigned its operating system from the inside out, revolutionising how we use and interact with our computers along the way.
Earlier this month Leap Motion published a video showing how its technology interacts with Windows 8.
The video shows an anonymous finger using Windows 8's touchscreen UI without actually touching the screen - sounds weird? Check it out below.Error loading MacroEngine script (file: ShowAsset.cshtml)
In the video we're shown how Leap Motion will allow us to use hand and finger movements to point, click and zoom our way around Windows 8 - showing how the technology has the potential to replace our desktop mouse.
Instead of having to lean forward and actually touch your screen, you'll be able to lean back in your chair and point like a business mogul when you want to open apps and programmes.
President Andy Miller said people will want to interact with the
technology once they have an understanding of how it works.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: "It'll take some time - everything that people use on computers has been written for the mouse and keyboard for the last 20 years, but I think people will see that the software written for the Leap is intuitive and people will want to interact that way."
Talk is cheap - Google voice search and OK, Google
So, you know all about controlling your laptop with movement and touch, but what about doing it with a bit of chat?
At Google's I/O conference in San Francisco the tech giant unveiled voice-activated search technology.
Like the equally far out Google Glass, it looked and sounded like how we thought the future would feel back in the Nineties, all hoverboards and virtual reality.
But far from being a product of the future, the voice-activated search has already arrived on the Chrome browser.
Enough bluster, you're probably wondering exactly how it works and what it can bring to your life?
Speak your search terms rather than type
Well, you can search the web by asking Chrome what you're after rather than typing it. All you have to do is click the microphone icon in the search box, opening a dedicated search page that listens for your commands.
Don't believe us? Here it is from the horse's mouth.
Google said in a blog post: "Conversational search has started rolling out on Google.com in the latest version of Chrome. You can just click the mic in the search box, ask your question in a natural way, and get spoken answers."
It's basically designed to respond to the way we speak to one another rather than technically constructed queries we often type into a search engine.
Amit Singhal wrote on the Google blog: "People communicate with each other by conversation, not by typing keywords - and we've been hard at work to make Google understand and answer your questions more like people do."
Ask Google two questions and it connects them
But how sophisticated is it? Well, when you say 'here' in a search request, Google understands you mean your present location. It's also sophisticated enough to link an initial question to its follow up, and recognise that we may be referring to the same people without saying exactly the same words.
For instance, Ask Google "Who did Angelina Jolie marry?" then follow up with "How old is he?" Or "How old is Sergey Brin?" with "who is he married to?"
How do you get it? Google says you need to upgrade your Chrome browser with Chrome 27 and then you're away.
Still to come - say OK, Google to find what you want
But just when you thought it couldn't get any more casual Google is going to make searching the web even more laid back with its OK, Google command.
Instead of having to click the microphone icon, all you'll need to do is say 'OK, Google' followed by what you want to find.
Writing on the Google blog Singhal added: "Soon, you'll be able to just say, hands-free, 'OK Google, will it be sunny in Santa Cruz this weekend?' and get a spoken answer. Then, you'll be able to continue the conversation and just follow up with 'how far is it from here?' if you care about the drive or 'how about Monterey?' if you want to check weather somewhere else, and get Google to tell you the answer."