Low-Cost Computer Gesture Control With An I2C Sensor

Controlling your computer with a wave of the hand seems like something from science fiction, and for good reason. From Minority Report to Iron Man, we’ve seen plenty of famous actors controlling their high-tech computer systems by wildly gesticulating in the air. Meanwhile, we’re all stuck using keyboards and mice like a bunch of chumps.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As [Norbert Zare] demonstrates in his latest project, you can actually achieve some fairly impressive gesture control on your computer using a $10 USD PAJ7620U2 sensor. Well not just the sensor, of course. You need some way to convert the output from the I2C-enabled sensor into something your computer will understand, which is where the microcontroller comes in.

Looking through the provided source code, you can see just how easy it is to talk to the PAJ7620U2. With nothing more exotic than a switch case statement, [Norbert] is able to pick up on the gesture flags coming from the sensor. From there, it’s just a matter of using the Arduino Keyboard library to fire off the appropriate keycodes. If you’re looking to recreate this we’d go with a microcontroller that supports native USB, but technically this could be done on pretty much any Arduino. In fact, in this case he’s actually using the ATtiny85-based Digispark.

This actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen somebody use a similar sensor to pull off low-cost gesture control, but so far, none of these projects have really taken off. It seems like it works well enough in the video after the break, but looks can be deceiving. Have any Hackaday readers actually tried to use one of these modules for their day-to-day futuristic computing?

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Groovin’ With A Gesture-Controlled MP3 Player

Touchscreens are great, but they’re not always the perfect solution. Trying to operate one with gloves on (even alleged “touchscreen-friendly” ones) can be cumbersome at best, and if the screen is on a publicly-shared device, such as a checkout kiosk it can easily become a home for bacteria, viruses and all sorts of other nasty stuff.

That’s what [Norbert Zare] was thinking when he built his gesture-controlled MP3 player. It uses a PAJ7620U2 gesture sensor to register a few intuitive hand motions including finger twirls to control the volume, hand swipes to skip forward and backwards, and a flat hand to play and pause the song. It even has a motorized knob and cute cutout music notes that move to provide some visual feedback for the gestures, which you can see in-action in the video below. If this seems familiar, it’s because on Tuesday we took a look at the camera-based, glance-to-skip-tracks controller he built.

To actually play some music, he gutted an old MP3 player and hooked the solder pads from the control buttons up to an Arduino, which reads gesture information from the sensor and emulates the MP3 player’s buttons by setting the appropriate pins to HIGH and LOW. Finally, he topped the whole thing off with an LCD screen and a case.

The great thing about [Norbert]’s approach is that it isn’t just limited to an MP3 player — it can be extended to replace the buttons on pretty much any device. Because the Arduino only needs to be connected to the button inputs of the device, it should be relatively easy to adapt most existing tactile interfaces to be touch-free. Paired with this gesture-tracking macro keyboard we saw earlier in the year, the days of actually having to touch our tech may soon be behind us.

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Hedgehog Gesture Sensor Built With Cheap Time-of-Flight Modules

Time-of-flight sensors used to be expensive obscurities, capable of measuring the travel time of photons themselves and often used for tracking purposes. However, the technology is cheaper now, such that [jean.perardel] has used TOF sensors to build a useful and affordable gesture-tracking system.

The system relies on four VL53L1X time of flight sensors, which have a 16×16 scanning array and communicate over the I2C bus. Controlling the show is an Arduino MKR1010, though the project should be achievable with a range of other microcontrollers, too.

The device is built into a cute hedgehog-like form factor, with an LCD screen acting as the face. It displays facial expressions which show how the system is interpreting and responding to gestures. It gives the project lots of personality, which makes using the system more fun. Gestures from the system can be used to send keystrokes over USB, control relays or servos, or even fire IR signals to control TVs and other hardware.

It actually seems like a useful gesture control interface, one that could become a useful part of a workstation setup. We’ve seen gesture controls put to other uses too, like controlling robot arms. Video after the break.

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Gesture-Detecting Macro Keyboard Knows What You Want

[jakkra] bought a couple of capacitive touchpads from a Kickstarter a few years ago and recently got around to using them in a project. And what a project it is: this super macro pad combines two touchpads with a 6-pack of regular switches for a deluxe gesture-sensing input device.

Inside is an ESP32 running TensorFlow Lite to read in the gestures from the two touchpads. The pad at the top is a volume slider, and the square touchpad is the main input and is used in conjunction with the buttons to run AutoHotKey scripts within certain programs. [jakkra] can easily run git commands and more with a handful of simple gestures. The gestures all seem like natural choices to us: > for next media track, to push the current branch and to fetch and pull the current branch, s for git status, l for git log, and the one that sounds really useful to us — draw a C to get a notification that lists all the COM ports. One of the switches is dedicated to Bluetooth pairing and navigating menus on the OLED screen.

We love the combination of inputs here and think this looks great, especially with the double touchpad design. Be sure to check out the gesture demo gif after the break.

Gesture input seems well-suited to those who compute on the go, and a gesture glove feels like the perfect fit.

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Open Source Motion Controller For DIY Drones

DJI recently introduced a slick motion controller that eschews the traditional dual-stick transmitter and allows you to fly their new “FPV Drone” with just one hand. The fact that it looks like it could double as the control stick for an X-Wing is just an added bonus. Unfortunately, that single model is the only thing the $199 USD controller is currently compatible with. Unwilling to get locked into the DJI ecosystem, [Paweł Spychalski] has developed an open source work-alike motion controller that brings gesture flying to home-built quadcopters and airplanes.

Now to be clear, you’ll still need a traditional transmitter to use this device. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, [Paweł] decided to implement his motion controller as an add-on for OpenTX hardware like the RadioMaster TX16S. It simply plugs into the trainer port on the back of the transmitter and acts as a secondary input. This greatly simplifies the design, as it essentially just needs to read angle data from its MPU-6050 gyro/accelerometer and forward it along to OpenTX over the serial port. Plus the fact that it’s connected to the trainer port means you can disable it and return to traditional controls in an instant if anything goes wrong.

Outside of the motion sensing gear, the ESP32-powered peripheral also has a thumb stick and a pair of push buttons nestled into its 3D printed frame. An OLED display provides some user feedback, and a holder for a 18650 cell is mounted to the back side as the controller will need its own power source when [Paweł] gets around to making its connection to the transmitter wireless.

In the video below, [Paweł] takes the motion controller for a test flight and comes away largely satisfied with the results. Some tweaks are in the works as you might expect for a first attempt, but nothing that would prevent you from building your own version today and experiencing what might be the next evolution of RC flying.

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3D Printed Gesture-Controlled Robot Arm Is A Ton Of Tutorials

Ever wanted your own gesture-controlled robot arm? [EbenKouao]’s DIY Arduino Robot Arm project covers all the bases involved, but even if a robot arm isn’t your jam, his project has plenty to learn from. Every part is carefully explained, complete with source code and a list of required hardware. This approach to documenting a project is great because it not only makes it easy to replicate the results, but it makes it simple to remix, modify, and reuse separate pieces as a reference for other work.

[EbenKouao] uses a 3D-printable robotic gripper, base, and arm design as the foundation of his build. Hobby servos and a single NEMA 17 stepper take care of the moving, and the wiring and motor driving is all carefully explained. Gesture control is done by wearing an articulated glove upon which is mounted flex sensors and MPU6050 accelerometers. These sensors detect the wearer’s movements and turn them into motion commands, which in turn get sent wirelessly from the glove to the robotic arm with HC-05 Bluetooth modules. We really dig [EbenKouao]’s idea of mounting the glove sensors to this slick 3D-printed articulated gauntlet frame, but using a regular glove would work, too. The latest version of the Arduino code can be found on the project’s GitHub repository.

Most of the parts can be 3D printed, how every part works together is carefully explained, and all of the hardware is easily sourced online, making this a very accessible project. Check out the full tutorial video and demonstration, embedded below.

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Gesture Controller For Roku And Universal Keyboard Built By UCPLA Dream Team

The coolest part of this year’s Hackaday Prize is teaming up with four nonprofit groups that outlined real-world challenges to tackle as part of the prize. To go along with this, the Dream Team challenge set out a two-month design and build program with small teams whose members each received a $6,000 stipend to work full time on a specific build.

The work of the Dream Team project is in, and today we’re taking a look at United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles (UCPLA) project which not only designed and built a universal remote for those affected with this condition, but also went to great lengths to make sure that “universal” was built into the software and user experience just as much as it was built into the hardware itself. Join us after the break for a closer look a the project, and to see the team’s presentation video.

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