It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a decade since Nintendo released the Wii, the first motion-controlled video game system on the market. The initial buzz about the Wii gaming experience centered around the gesture-based interaction technology used to play the games. Using body gestures, users are able to control game characters and elements and navigate menus. The software is highly responsive to gamer interaction with visuals and audio. It wasn’t too long before Microsoft followed suit by releasing the Kinect for Xbox, which has been revered as a better quality motion-controlled input device with a high degree of accuracy for gesture interaction. It was met with acclaim by the consumer gaming market, and the technology has maintained its status as a popular accessory for video gamers and digital enthusiasts alike. An experience that usually involves long periods of sitting and blistered fingers is evolving into a standing activity that lets you use your arms and legs to interact with something on-screen without touching any objects – and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. This has really enhanced the digital game experience and made it more immersive for users.

Gesture interaction has made its way into interactive digital exhibits in museums and cultural centres due to its added entertainment value for educational digital experiences (“edutainment,” if you will). Visitors of all ages have a lot of fun using gesture interaction while exploring and learning about an exhibit, which significantly increases visitor engagement.

The Kinect is a popular input device for custom interactive digital projects because of the ability for developers to create fully integrated custom apps. Interactive digital exhibit projects found in museums, interpretive centres, and institutions around the world have used the Kinect successfully for a variety of applications.

This interactive digital installation provides assistance to visitors like a real museum guide and uses the Kinect for motion-controlled gesture input. It effectively uses video of different guides that provide information to visitors about specific exhibitions at the museum.

This interactive digital installation allows visitors to use body gestures to interact with works of art that come alive in real time, giving birth to an interaction between image and reality. The art works come to life in response to movement, involving visitors in a fun way.

An interesting application using multiple Kinect devices for visitors to navigate and interact with content on a video wall.

Interactive floor and wall projection experiences use motion-based interaction as well, yet they have unique qualities that make them more suitable for certain applications in institutions and public spaces. Another interactive gesture-based input device is the Leap Motion controller, which works on a smaller, more intricate scale as it tracks hand and finger movements close to a motion sensor.

Virtual Reality (VR) has generated a buzz with the Oculus Rift headset and other products overcoming many of the challenges that held back previous VR technologies. The new VR hardware and software capabilities look very promising, and we’re looking forward to a lot more developments in this arena. Gesture interactive input combined with the VR headset is about as immersive as it gets for digital experiences. VR is already being implemented for interactive digital exhibits; however, it’s not as common, and it may be a bit early to determine how well accepted (and appropriate) it will be in these environments.

Gesture interaction technology has demonstrated its staying power and continually improves with research and development. The technology is not new for kids or video game and electronics enthusiasts; however, it’s always exciting to use, and it will surely remain novel for years to come.