Use your webcam as a mouse with gesture-based freeware ‘NPointer’

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Have you ever wished you had an extra hand for the mouse while you’re typing? Or, perhaps you’re one of the many people across the world that is differently abled than others and you need a mouse-control solution that doesn’t require hands and fingers, or maybe you like to see the technology of tomorrow today, before most people catch on.

In either case, or somewhere between, you’ll find that NPointer has much to offer you to make your computing easier and perhaps even faster. It will most definitely make it more interesting. NPointer is a free application for ‘gestural computer control’.

It monitors your hand movements, Kinect-style, through the webcam, and translates these into actions such as clicks, drags, and scrolls, etc.

As computers have become as common in the home as a refrigerator or television, programs and options to run them in different ways have started to become more and more common. NPointer is a good example of that evolution, and it can be used by pretty much anyone that has a computer (either desktop or laptop) and a webcam (either built in or USB connected).

NPointer ScreenShot00226
NPointer, essentially, turns your webcam into a detection device, similar to some of the console ‘eye toy’ attachments. It does this by detecting differences in light and pattern within the cam’s view, and translating movement on the cam into mouse commands on your screen. If you have a stand alone USB camera, you can use it to point at a blank spot on your desk and then put your hand there, pretending there is a mouse. The cam will detect the movements of your hand and record it as mouse input. The same thing works with laptop built-in web cams but you’ll have the airspace between your head and the computer as your movement spot. This means that you can even use your head to move the mouse, instead of your hand, which is a huge boon to people who want to use a PC but might not have all the limbs needed. For that matter, it can be useful for those who need a third hand, in case both are already occupied on the keyboard.

NPointer ScreenShot00227

Installation is a breeze, simply requiring decompression and running the application. There are few settings to mess with (or mess up) so getting started happens as soon as you run the program. The program itself runs quite well, doesn’t take up a whole lot of CPU or other resources, and takes immediate control of your mouse movement. The main thing I noted as a downside with this program is that it does seem to require an awful lot of ambient light to be able to accurately pick up movement. This can be dealt with by fiddling with the detection sliders and options but it can still be a pain in the neck. The documentation gives plenty of information on how to get the most out of the program, though.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the NPointer solution to alternative mouse movement. Combine this program with things like voice activation and built in OS voice commands and we’re on the way to getting rid of the mouse entirely in the years to come. Whether that turns out to be a good thing remains to be seen, but it will surely be interesting to see where these kinds of innovations take us and in the mean time they provide just one more great way for disabled folks to do the same things everyone else does. That, in my book, is priceless. Until next time, my friends.

  • Get NPointer here.