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Gain Magical Control Over Your Music Player With Flutter

It’s a bit like Minority report. Just raise your hand and your computer responds with an action. Motion-based controls with your hands, now more common with modern gaming consoles (PlayStation Move and XBOX Kinect), still feels a bit futuristic.

On personal computers and modern tablets, peripheral input and touch-based gestures won the race against camera-based gesture recognition. Still, some developers are in love with the idea of controlling devices without any actual hands-on. In small doses, this can be fun and useful. This is the case with Flutter, developed by a large team of developers at BotSquare.

Flutter is a small tool for recognizing motion gestures on OS X, which recognizes you via a webcam (iSight or external) to control your favorite music player. After downloading it, you have work through a tutorial to get to become familiar with the hand gestures. Flutter then sits in the background, with your Mac’s iSight camera on (obviously required for running Flutter) and awaits your actions.

The current version of Flutter (0.1.237 — don’t be afraid, it’s not a beta version, the developers just want to add more features before calling the app 1.0) supports three gestures: a flat open hand, and a fist with your thumb either pointing to the right or the left. Do those gestures in front of your webcam, and Flutter will recognize them and do the action associated with them. To make sure the app recognizes your hand’s action, you have to keep it one to four feet away from the camera.

With the open hand gesture, you can play and pause your music. Using the thumb either pointing to the right or left you go to the next or previous track. The Flutter team is working hard to implement more gestures such as volume control (I suggest a single index finger pointing upwards or downwards respectively for this one).

All three gestures work well in the current version — you just have to get used to the fact that you often need to move your hand a bit to make the camera notice it. Knowing where to position yourself at first so that your hand is inside the viewing area of your camera can be tricky at first. But after a while you also get used to it; when Flutter recognizes you it’s easy to use, looks like magic, and can be a very intuitive way of controlling your music player (the app currently supports iTunes, Spotify, VLC, and QuickTime; no Rdio support unfortunately).

Through the app’s drop-down menu, you can turn the camera on and off (for privacy and energy saving reasons), set Flutter to automatically launch at login, as well as report bugs and re-watch the aforementioned (very interactive and easy to understand) tutorial. The app also sends notifications to the Notification Center when you change apps to let you know that you’re still able to control the newly activated player with Flutter.

Flutter is a small app, although it’s not something I would recommend because not everybody needs it. However, I can imagine that lots of people would want to try it for the novelty of it. It’s a magic little piece of software that can be fun to use.

Flutter is available for free on the Mac App Store.

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