Just don’t wave your hands while you’re talking! – New technology is showing up all the time, and some of it is really out there. First, remote controls replaced knobs so we can change channels without getting up from the couch. In the future, we will dispense with the remote controls (which are always getting lost under the couch cushions anyway) and simply control our TVs, stereos, DVD players and video games with hand movements.

Softkinetic, based in Belgium, is one of the leaders in the “gesture-control” field. They have teamed up with Texas Instruments and hope to have this technology ready by next Christmas, which certainly will help the recession. In Physorg.com, Chris Lefkow quotes researcher Roger Kay as saying, “We’re in that transition to a time when gestural input will be quite natural. From what I’ve seen of the demos they’re pretty close.”

Meanwhile, we’ll have to practice talking by our TV sets without gesticulating, or we’ll end up turning them on by mistake. This will be harder for Mediterranean people (such as Italians), who often gesture when they speak. This isn’t just part of their culture, it actually helps improve communication.

Volunteers were shown videos of common actions. In some cases, these videos were followed by a one-second video of a spoken word and gesture (such as a “chopping” motion after a video of someone chopping vegetables). While the word used was always the same, in some cases, the gestures matched the action in the longer videos and in some they did not. When the volunteers had to decide whether the speech and gestures were related to the first video they watched, their replies came more quickly (and were more often correct) when the correct gesture had been used.

This has implications for everyday communicative situations, especially in emergency situations. PhysOrg.com quotes researchers Spencer Kelly, Asli Ozyurek and Eric Maris as saying, “If you really want to make your point clear and readily understood, let your words AND hands do the talking.”

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