New Microsoft Gesture Tracking System Lets You 'Feel' Virtual Objects

Beyond the Kinect

It's become vogue in tech circles to say that the Microsoft Kinect, the company's motion tracking peripheral originally designed for the Xbox 360, is passe (though some disagree, pointing out its popularity among researchers).

But even if the Kinect isn't massively appealing as a gaming accessory anymore, it's hardly stopping Microsoft from pursuing even more advanced gesture tracking technology. In fact, the company used the Kinect to create what it calls "Efficient and Precise Interactive Hand Tracking," a new system that lets you manipulate virtual objects on a screen with your hands with more control than ever before, even tricking your brain into thinking you're feeling different physical surfaces and textures. As Microsoft explained in a new video:

Researchers created virtual controls that are thin enough that you can touch your fingers together to get an experience of touching something hard. They also developed sensory experiences that allow people to push against something soft and pliant rather than hard and unforgiving, which appears to feel more authentic.

The company has been working on this research for several years, and presented the latest results at the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM)'s SIGGRAPH 2016 conference in Anaheim, California.