The Future of Motion Tracking Devices

Monday, April 18, 2016

The mouse. It sits on your desk or swipes under your hand and is limited by the need to be touched. With different computer displays and richer options, a mouse that requires a surface to operate is becoming obsolete. The future needs a controller that can operate in the air with a simple hand movement and control the devices surrounding us. Whether that device is a computer, a game console, a Virtual or Augmented Reality device, or other smart devices such as household appliances.  

Enter WNCG Prof. Lili Qiu and her graduate students, Sangki Yun and Wenguang Mao, who are designing a motion-based controller that uses acoustic impulses to navigate through space and control devices.

While a range of motion-tracking devices are already on the market, they have limited accuracy or require special hardware that is not widely available to consumers. Through her research, Prof. Qiu is working to overcome these limitations.

“A unique advantage of our work is that we achieve high-tracking accuracy using existing hardware in mobile devices such as smartphones and watches,” Prof. Qiu states. “Any mobile device with a microphone can become a motion tracker.”

To realize this goal, Prof. Qiu and her students use existing speakers on smart devices, such as TVs, computers and phones, to send inaudible sound pulses at selected frequencies. The mobile device can then measure the distance between speakers and determine the movement trajectory in real time. As the distance between the sender and the receiver changes, the signal frequency also changes, based on an effect known as the Doppler shift.

According to Prof. Qiu, this research could change the future of motion-based gaming, gesture-based remote controls, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and the control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle drones.

Moving forward, Prof. Qiu is working to improve the robustness and accuracy of her audio-based tracking. Her students are currently developing methods that track hand movement without the user having to wear any devices. The WNCG team is also exploring additional applications for their tracking technologies.

“The main advantage of our approach over a GPS-based approach is that it works both indoors and outdoors without needing strong GPS signals, there is no need for special hardware since it works with regular speakers and smartphones, and it is more power efficient than current GPS solutions,” Prof. Qiu mentions.

For a demo of Prof. Qiu’s acoustic-tracking technology visit: