Digits: Microsoft’s wristband controller that could replace both the mouse and Kinect

DigitThe discussion surrounding the next generation of video game consoles is increasingly focused on the tools used to interact with games, not increased processing power and advanced graphics. Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War), John Carmack (Doom, Quake), and many other designers have been touting the return of video game headsets, the sorts of virtual reality helmets that were so iconic in the 1990s finally realized as functioning consumer technology. Maybe VR won’t be the end of wearable computing gear when the next round of gaming tech emerges. Microsoft is working on a wristband that might offer the precision that motion controllers never have.

Microsoft Research is working on technology currently called Digits, which lets you use your hands to interact with a computer using precise, fine motor skills rather than a tool like a mouse or a controller. In the video below, a man using digits is plays a fighting game using small finger motions, with his hand obscured from the television.

“Digits, a wrist-worn gloveless sensor developed by Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, enables 3D computer interaction in any environment and is practical beyond computer gaming,” reads Microsoft’s description.

While the demo shows that Digits can be used without a direct line of sight between the user and their screen, it would need to be within view of a Kinect according to the developers. The Kinect, with its need for broad motions to interpret player action, was the direct inspiration for Digits. David Kim, the project leader on Digits, told New Scientist (via Eurogamer) that the tech was made to make a less cumbersome motion interface than Kinect currently offers. “We had to use technologies that are small and use less power. It shouldn’t interfere with daily activity, and we wanted to enable continuous interaction.” Put another way, you shouldn’t have to rearrange your furniture to use the device.

Gaming won’t be the only use of Digits, though. It could feasibly replace the mouse entirely. “You can imagine using really subtle gestures [with Digits],” said Thad Starner, the technical lead developing Google’s Project Glass, “I’d use it in class to pull up notes while I’m teaching.”

Digits illuminates what is likely a broad trend in hardware development taking place. Valve has intimated that its new hardware business will be based on reinventing the most common tools in PC gaming, namely the keyboard and mouse. It has also said that it’s experimenting with “wearable computers.”

Digits may well be the place where precise game controls and motion controls finally converge.

Get Microsoft Silverlight


Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.

This ‘computer mouse’ sets the new size standard for portable computing

The Raspberry Pi is an amazingly capable little computer and it's small enough that it can fit just about anywhere. Even in a computer mouse — if you're willing to build a custom chassis for it.

Dataminers discover SNES games, more emulators for Nintendo Switch Online

Nintendo Switch Online may soon launch SNES games and more emulators, according to data miners. The list of hidden SNES titles include Breath of Fire 2 and Star Fox 2, while the other emulators may be the Nintendo 64 and Nintendo GameCube.

‘RollerCoaster Tycoon 2’ ride takes 12 years to complete

A RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 player has constructed a coaster in the game that will take more than 12 years to complete from beginning to end, and is actually a tiny ride taking up a small portion of the landscape.
Product Review

'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe' is 2D platforming wizardry

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is the latest Wii U game to come back from the dead on Switch. And wow, it’s much better than we remembered.

‘Battlefield V’ adds Squad Conquest mode in ‘Lightning Strikes’ update

Electronic Arts and DICE have detailed what is included in the Battlefield V update Lightning Strikes. The update includes access to the mode Squad Conquest through the end of January.

Here's everything you need to know to trade in 'Pokémon Go'

After literally years of waiting, Pokémon Go finally gives trainers the option to trade Pokémon with others. It's not easy, though, and the cost is quite high if you try trading with strangers.

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.

‘Rocket League’ is the latest game to get full cross-platform play

Psyonix has announced that Rocket League now supports full cross-platform play across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC, joining Fortnite as the only games to do so.

Here's what you need to know about 'World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth'

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is the latest expansion for the now 14-year-old MMORPG. It goes back to the roots of the Alliance vs. Horde conflict. Here's what you need to know.

Latest ‘Fortnite’ update channels Halo with a scoped revolver

The latest update for Fortnite, update 7.20, is now available, and it brings a new Scoped Revolver weapon to the game alongside the returning Glider item and a limited-time Snipers-only mode.

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ will make Blackout mode free to play this week

Treyarch and Activision are offering Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode as a free trial download for a limited time. The mode will be available from January 17 through January 24.