The five most disruptive technologies of 2012

By Christopher Mims


1. Controlling computers without touching them


Leap Motion, Pointgrab, Elliptic

Other companies are working to bring gesture-based interfaces into computers through a variety of competing technologies. (Leap uses a pair of cameras and ahandful of infrared lights, but the company’s “secret sauce” is apparently its software, which runs on the computer rather than the Leap sensor, and processes what those cameras see.) Elliptic Labs, for example, uses ultrasound transducers and tiny microphones embedded in PCs to “see” where a user’s hands are in the same way that a bat uses echoes. PointGrab, on the other hand, has a camera-based technology that is already available in gesture-controlled televisions, and it’s about to debut in PCs from Acer and Fujitsu. Pointgrab’s system isn’t as accurate as a Leap, but it has the advantage of working with any device that has a forward-facing camera.