As Mr Melvin Thoabala, a fourth year Computer Science student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) makes a hand gesture. He stands a distance from his computer. A cursor on the computer responds and moves along with his hand.
He is communicating with his computer without ever touching it, with his bare hands! “This is a magic,” some within his captivated audience seem to suggest! None believe what they are seeing. The young NUL innovators have done it…again! In pursuit of innovation, they know no bounds!
The NUL has just celebrated its 70th anniversary in style! And His Majesty’s entourage is now surveying some of the latest NUL innovations, with much appreciation. Little, does His Entourage know what is in store for the day.
It is a camouse, as the innovators prefer to call it! With a camouse program, you control your computer operations with mere hand gestures. No mouse. Yes, you got it right! It is one of the latest in a string of creative products that have pushed the NUL. Of course, the entire Mountain Kingdom, into an incurable innovation fever!
“It is a simple solution to a complex problem,” said Mr Kopano Moeketsi. He is supervising two enthusiastic students: Mr Melvin Thoabala and Mr Phello Ralibakha, Computer Science final year students who are working hard to develop this groundbreaking product. He said most people are familiar with a mouse and touch pad that one has to touch to operate a computer.
“In our case, we don’t hold any mouse. Rather we make hand gestures and we are able to achieve similar navigation we achieve using a mouse,” he said.
The students working on this project are fascinated by the program they are helping to develop. They are trying to provide a cheap alternative to solve a common problem. Mostly encountered in a presentation such as a Power Point presentation.
“In most presentations, presenters come back and forth between the projection screen and the computer to scroll via mouse, again and again,” Thoabala said. “The problem has been solved before by using ppc remotes to move from one slide to another. But the remotes are expensive and their functionality is minimal.”
So the team decided to come up with an ingenious solution. Instead of a mouse that increases traffic during a presentation, or a use of an expensive ppc remote. How about using bare hands, they asked? “A normal person is born with two hands, which we all got for free! With our camouse, that is all you need to bring to your presentation. Nothing else,” added Ralibakha.
Learn how camouse works and you immediately realize it is nothing but a stroke of genius! “We recognized that modern laptops come with built-in webcams (digital cameras), Ralibakha continued. He said that even the cheapest of the laptops in the markets have these cameras nowadays. This proved to be the secret from which to build their system.
The built-in camera picks the moving pictures as presenters make certain predefined hand gestures in front of the computer. It then passes the information to a software they have invented. This software interprets the meaning of the hand gestures. Then “tells” the computer’s operating system what action to take, depending on the gesture.
Mr Ralibakha pointed that from the brilliant mechanism, they set to build a system that needs nothing other than a software to get it running. In their observation, it is a system that will be one of the cheapest to launch for as long as the software they develop functions.
“We won’t need to buy anything to launch camouse,” he said. “We certainly need no extra cameras, and no ppc remote systems, we need no extra hardware! It is only software, no extra hardware is needed.”
Embedded within this fabric of ingenuity is the program’s ability to mimic the functions of a normal mouse. Such as scrolling back and forth from slide to slide. Going through folders and making clicks whenever necessary, all without ever touching a computer!
Camouse can also record and store videos of the current presentation. Suppose a lecturer does not have time to go to class. He can just record his own video. The same way he would do in class, all by himself, going through a power point presentation.
Then he can take the video and place it in another ingenuous NUL invented computer program called Thuto which is now serving the entire university (more about this later). “Then the students can download a lecture from Thuto and learn, as if nothing happened!” Mr Moeketsi exclaimed.
Indeed similar yet different attempts at mouse-free computers are being tested in other parts of the world. The innovators are in a race to make the most out of their invention. “We would like to go so far as to help those who use sign language to be able to write using this system in future.
We envisage a system much like a voice recognition system. Lots of features still need to be included in this work. We are not yet there,” they concluded.
This blog post was originally written by NUL Research and Innovations