Various enterprises and personal interests, such as Man-Machine Interaction (MMI), gesture studies, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Month: December 2007

Name calling in SLN

There is an interesting initiative to include name calling or swear signs in the SLN lessons for parents of Deaf kids was organised by a group of parents of Deaf kids. According to their leaflet (in Dutch) they will be treating the following signs in the first lesson: klootzak (dysphemism for scrotum), idioot (idiot), and sukkel (idiot/loser).

See posts on and FOK (with many comments).

It made me wonder how much of the vulgar Dutch emblems are part of the SLN lexicon. In fact, I am quite curious in general about the relation between signs and a host culture’s emblems (which according to Ekman & Friesen (1969) and Morris et al. (1979) are a recognizable set of symbolic gestures with a conventionalized meaning in a culture that can be used to substitute words or parts of speech. Kendon (1984, 1992) calls them ‘quotable gestures’).

I will check the set of 20 key gestures from Morris et al. (1979) against an SLN dictionary (Standaard Lexicon NGT, deel 1+2, NGC, 2002) to see which of those 20 emblems are also SLN signs. It should be noted that according to Morris et al. only 12 of the gestures are commonly known in the Netherlands, which I checked with ‘Het Gebarenboekje’ by Andrea & De Boer (1993) to see if they concurred, which by and large they did.

One gesture is at least a well known SLN sign: the Fig.

The Fig
Do you know what it means in the Netherlands and in SLN? (Source: Morris et al. 1979)

Lehmann’s Perfect Finger Camouflage

Here is one of the nicest ‘Fingers in camouflage’ I have ever seen on video.

Offside Bundesliga: When confronted Lehmann said: “It’s nonsense. I’ve never done anything like that”. It supposedly happened after one of Lehmann’s risky trademark excursions outside of the box, during the Germany – Cyprus match on Saturday (4-0). The crowd in Hannover started Robert Enke chants. Enke happens to be Hannover’s goalkeeper and Jogi Löw’s current third choice behind Lehmann and Hildebrand.

Lehmann, whose workout was also a bit ambiguous for some, has shown himself a true master of the camouflaged gesture. Playing into people’s increased sensitivity he manages to insult those he wants to insult, while he can claim innocence in public. Bravo, a perfect grasp of the perception of insults.

Much better than Joe Nedney, who got a $7.500 fine (which is average, see these other fines for similar offences) for his lousy camouflage attempt:

Nedney ginving the finger
Clearly the man is scratching his head (source)

The only examples I have of an even more subtle camouflage is when a man painted an abstract work of art, a huge cactus, on the side of his house facing his (complaining) neighbors. They were highly offended, but he got away with it (and eventually removed it).

Medal of Honor Heroes 2 – Gesture Trailer

There is a new release in the game series Medal of Honor (see also Medal of Honor Vanguard), which again bets heavily on the Wii gesture control.

Trailer: Experience WWII with an all new Wii-mote control scheme!

GameTrailers commenter: For once a Wii control scheme that actually looks intuitive and intricate as opposed to gimmicky. Ill be picking this up tomorrow

The Acceptability of Sign Manipulations

My latest research revolved around the question ‘when is a sign production still acceptable’, or rather, given that context and application of different norms have a big influence on acceptability, ‘which (types of) variations are more acceptable?’

We ran an experiment which I think has yielded interesting results. Tuesday Jan 22 I will be giving a presentation at the MPI Nijmegen about the experiment and the results as part of the Nijmegen Gesture Centre Lecture Series 2007. This will be in English. At our own workshop ‘Een mooi gebaar 2007‘ I also gave preliminary results in a short 10 minute presentation in Dutch.

Gestures are Sterile, Touching is not

At the renowned Fraunhofer institute they may have built a killer gesture app: Gesture control that lets surgeons control a 3D-display of a head (for example) during surgery while remaining sterile (touching buttons would break sterility, I guess).

Rotate the 3D image by gesturing (source)

Press Release: Non-contact image control

As if by magic, the three-dimensional CAT scan image rotates before the physician’s eyes – merely by pointing a finger. This form of non-contact control is ideal in an operating room, where it can deliver useful information without compromising the sterile work environment.

The physician leans back in a chair and studies the three-dimensional image floating before his eyes. After a little reflection, he raises a finger and points at a virtual button, likewise floating in the air. At the physician’s command, the CAT scan image rotates from right to left or up and down – precisely following the movement of his finger. In this way, he can easily detect any irregularities in the tissue structure. With another gesture, he can click on to the next image. Later, in the operating room, the surgeon can continue to refer to the scanner images. Using gesture control to rotate the images, he can look at the scan of the patient’s organs from the same perspective as he sees them on the operating table. There is no risk of contaminating his sterile gloves, because there is no mouse or keyboard involved.

But how does the system know which way the finger is pointing? “There are two cameras installed above the display that projects the three-dimensional image,” explains Wolfgang Schlaak, who heads the department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut HHI in Berlin that developed the display. “Since each camera sees the pointing finger from a different angle, image processing software can then identify its exact position in space.” The cameras record one hundred frames per minute. A third camera, integrated in the frame of the display, scans the user’s face and eyes at the same frequency. The associated software immediately identifies the inclination of the person’s head and the direction in which the eyes are focused, and generates the appropriate pair of stereoscopic images, one for the left eye and one for the right. If the person moves their head a couple of inches to the side, the system instantly adapts the images. “In this way, the user always sees a high-quality three-dimensional image on the display, even while moving about. This is essential in an operating theater, and allows the physician to act naturally when carrying out routine tasks,” says Schlaak. “The unique feature of this system is that it combines a 3-D display screen with a non-contact user interface.” The three-dimensional display costs significantly less than conventional 3-D screens of comparable quality. Schlaak is convinced that “this makes our gesture-controlled 3-D display an affordable option even for smaller medical practices.” The research team will be presenting its prototype at the MEDICA trade fair from November 14 to 17, 2007, in Düsseldorf (Hall 16, Stand D55). Schlaak hopes to be able to commercialize the system within a year or so.

Things like this are probably the best bet for the near future of gesture recognition. Niche applications that exploit some specific benefit of using gestures instead of (or besides) other, more mundane interface technology. The biggest hit in gesture land is without a doubt the Nintendo Wii, which exploits another unique selling point of gestures: a higher (or more representative) physical involvement leading to a better ‘experience’ of a game. It specifically targets gamers who are interested in fun and exercise in a social context. I doubt that hardcore gamers, intent on getting to higher levels of killing sprees, will be very keen on the Wii.

And so it will probably remain for the near future. Like with speech recognition, gesture recognition will have to find some nice niches to live in and multiply. Maybe one day, the general conditions will change (ubiquitous camera viewpoints? intention-aware machines?) and gesture can become the dominant form of HCI, driving buttons to niche applications. I wouldn’t bet on it right now, though.

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