To provide natural user interfaces to interactive environments, accurate and fast recognition of gestures and expressions is needed. We adopt a view-based gesture recognition strategy that runs in an unconstrained interactive environment, which uses active vision methods to determine context cuess for the view-based method. Using vision routines already implemented for an interactive environment, we determine the spatial location of salient body parts and guide an active camera to obtain foveated images of gestures or expressions. Face recognition routines used to obtain an estimate of the identity of the user, and provide an index into the best set of view templates to use. The resulting system combines low-resolution, user-independent processing with high-resolution, user-specific models, all of which are computed in real time as part of an interactive environment.