In 1977 Daniel J. Sandin and Thomas Defanti at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory, a cross-disciplinary research lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago, created the Sayre Glove, the first wired glove or data glove. The glove was based on an idea of a colleague at the laboratory, Richard Sayre. An inexpensive, lightweight glove to monitor hand movements, the Sayre Glove provided an effective method for multidimensional control, such as mimicking a set of sliders.
"This device used light based sensors with flexible tubes with a light source at one end and a photocell at the other. As the fingers were bent, the amount of light that hit the photocells varied, thus providing a measure of finger flexion. It was mainly used to manipulate sliders, but was lightweight and inexpensive" (Wikipedia article on Daniel J. Sandin, accessed 10-03-2013).
This may the beginning of gesture recognition research in computer science.