Understanding Expressive Action

Christopher R. Wren

Ph.D Thesis

March, 2000
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Program M.I.T.

We strain our eyes, cramp our necks, and destroy our hands trying to interact with computer on their terms. At the extreme, we strap on devices and weigh ourselves down with cables trying to re-create a sense of place inside the machine, while cutting ourselves off from the world and people around us. The alternative is to make the real environment responsive to our actions. It is not enough for environments to respond simply to the presence of people or objects: they must also be aware of the subtleties of changing situations. If all the spaces we inhabit are to be responsive, they must not require encumbering devices to be worn and they must be adaptive to changes in the environment and changes of context.

This dissertation examines a body of sophisticated perceptual mechanisms developed in response to these needs as well as a selection of human-computer interface sketches designed to push the technology forward and explore the possibilities of this novel interface idiom. Specifically, the formulation of a fully recursive framework for computer vision called \dyna\ that improves performance of human motion tracking will be examined in depth. The improvement in tracking performance is accomplished with the combination of a three-dimensional, physics-based model of the human body with modifications to the pixel classification algorithms that enable them to take advantage of this high-level knowledge. The result is a novel vision framework that has no completely bottom-up processes, and is therefore significantly faster and more stable than other approaches.


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