Gesture Sensor

Gesture Sensor

gesture sensor
gesture sensor

Augmented Reality is working okay. But it requires an app, and a phone. Which could be pushing me towards a challenge that I've already faced, and haven't really solved: people just aren't that eager to whip out their phones and download an app.

So I'm adding a fall back, an easier onramp: something built around a gesture sensor.

Here's the one I looked at:

It's based on this chip:

What I like about it is the redundancy: it can detect gesture sensing, RGB color sensing, proximity sensing, or ambient light sensing.

If someone is standing nearby, waving a hand, or just sort of holding a hand over the sensor -- I can count on one of those things to trigger a digital signal. 

Adafruit gesture sensor
An Adafruit gesture sensor

Gesture sensors have the advantage of being a commodity product that has found a solid niche in one very specific room: the bathroom, particularly the retail/office bathroom.

Today, even a moderately upscale public bathroom (that is, not a gas station), can sport as many as four gesture sensors, in the:

  • towel dispenser
  • hand dryer
  • water faucet
  • toilet flusher

All triggered by a wave of a hand.

(Adoption of this technology has been slower in the home bathroom, btw, where commonly-touched surfaces aren't as scarey. 

A comprehensive article in The Guardian traces the evolution of gsture sensing in the bathroom, which has, on occasion, been found to be racist

In any event, it's out there, and people use it. We all know what to do when we see this icon (available for $2 from 

sensor icon
Available from Iconfinder for $2.00

There's an industry name for this kind of technology: touchless tech. As in, Touchless Sensing Market Overview, Top Key Players, Growth Analysis and Segments by Forecast to 2023

Hooking up a gesture sensor to the gumball machine was not difficult. I set up two Particle Photons: one that triggers the stepper motor; the other attached to the gesture sensor. Wave a hand over the gesture sensor and the attached Photon alerts the Photon in the gumball machine: "dispense". 

Looking ahead, I shopped for cheaper gesture sensors on AliExpress. I found a bunch of gesture sensors built around the same APDS-9960 chip. 

Ordered two of these:

And three of these:

The price was right, under $2 each, but they presented some challenges.

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