Look ma, no hands

Extreme Reality, demoing a hands-free 3-D computer interface at TechCrunch40 in San Francisco today, really made me wish this conference offered opportunities to see the stage demos up close and personal. (There is a demo pit, but it houses a whole different cast of companies, the main demonstrators essentially evaporate once they leave the stage.) I mean, itâ''d be hard to say something about whether or not a new mouse design was really a huge improvement over traditional mouse designs without trying it. That goes double for a 3-D interface.

That said, if Extreme Realityâ''s XTR 3DHMI is as fun to use as it seems, this software-only 3-D controller (it works by analyzing video from a standard webcam) could be a big hit. The demo featured hand gestures controlling basic computer functions (opening and closing applications), as well as navigating Google earth, zooming and turning. The company is targeting developers, who, it hopes, will build it into applications, games being the most obvious choice, and a game company already has a project in development.

â''Think how many carpal tunnel doctors heâ''ll put out of business,â'' commented expert panelist Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr.

And it will eliminate the â''Wiiâ'' problem of users accidentally pitching handheld controllers across the room.

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