Microsoft Digits: hand and finger tracking from a wearable infrared cuff
Microsoft's UK R&D lab is showing off “Digits,” a prototype project that uses the same sort of infrared blasting-and-tracking that makes the Kinect possible, except this time it's in a wearable cuff that is rather like having a GoPro strapped to one's wrist. By mixing several different types of image tracking together–including doing a lot of comparative “template matching” that is far more common in 3D tracking than I'd realized–they are able to detect both the orientation of the hand and fingers, as well as the individual position of digits and fingertips.
Systems like Leap Motion can do similar tracking while sitting (or standing) in one place, tethered to a computer. To be able to offload the tracking to wearable devices allows for mobile use; one of Microsoft's demo use cases was to control music playback on a mobile phone while out and about.
I wonder if it was this project (or knowledge of it) that caused Valve's Gabe Newell to hire Michael Abrash to spearhead the game company's wearables initiative. He's a bright fellow, that Gaben, but I suspect he didn't pluck his idea of “bands on our wrists” out of thin air.