Author: Komlan E. Ezunkpe

SixthSense: A disruptive technology and gesture-based computing system

Disruptive technologies serve as creative forces for emerging technologies (Thornburg, 2014a); SixthSense technology is one of these technologies. In a conference, The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology (TED India, 2009), Pranav Mistry has demoed a model of SixthSense system that uses Gesture-based computer interface. The system consists of a camera, mirror or projector, and special fingertips colored thimbles. In the demo, Mistry places these special colored thimbles at his fingertips to interact at a distance with interfaces. Mistry was able to rotate, stretch out, reduce, bring to the forefront, push aside and back digital objects on the interface. In the demo, physical objects and digital environments were blurred.

SixthSence uses any surface as interface (Example of walls used as interface and e-papers)

In another sequence of the demo, Mistry showed that we can carry digital worlds with us wherever we go. He took a photo just by the gesture of taking a photo. And later, he used some surfaces he found around him, including walls, as interfaces and started browsing and modifying his photos taken earlier and sent them as an email (TED India, 2009). The system finds information about people and objects such as books. In the demo, Mistry called a friend using the palm as his hand as an interface. Electronic paper technology was also part of SixthSense. The device, SixthSense, can recognize the cover of a book, and finds out reviews about it that you can hear on the physical book. Mistry demonstrates this by a live video on a newspaper he had in hands, a live weather information that appeared on a map in his hands, and a live flight information on a paper flight ticket. So, we are looking for a computing era where the digital world is ubiquitous, where we will use any surfaces to acquire information and this can be done anywhere we find ourselves.

SixthSense will obsolesce surface and smartphone technologies

With the development of SixthSence technology, we won’t need computers to input and process information. We won’t have output devices or physical interfaces to display information. This will be the end of surface computing technologies and smartphones and holographic technology will be the disruptive technology which will take over. Although SixthSense has been around for six years, it is not ubiquitous. I would like to see SixthSense become ubiquitous in a few years, and I would like it to be used in the area of autistic students’ education.

Social/educational implications

Autistic students lack social and communication skills. They avoid eye contact. The use of traditional computers including a mouse, keyboard, and vertical monitor may not be ideal for them because the manipulation of these objects on traditional computers is not direct (Brave, 1998). SixthSense technology pulls together physical and digital items into a single domain where the forms are blurred (Ulmer, 2000). And these new arrangements of digital and physical objects based on gestures, touching, and grasping may bring some advantages to autistic students.


Brave, B. B. (1998). Tangible Interfaces for Remote Communication and Collaboration. (Master Thesis). Retrieved December 30, 2015, from

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). David Thornburg: Disruptive technologies [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

TED India. (Producer). (2009). The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology [Video file]. Retrieved June 7, 2014, from

Ulmer, B. & Ishii, H. (2000). Emerging Frameworks for Tangible User Interface. IBM Systems Journal, 39, No.3 & 4, 995-931


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