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This paper presents algorithms and a prototype system for hand tracking and hand posture recognition. Hand postures are represented in terms of hierarchies of multi-scale colour image features at different scales, with qualitative inter-relations in terms of scale, position and orientation. In each image, detection of multi-scale colour features is performed. Hand states are then simultaneously detected and tracked using particle filtering, with an extension of layered sampling referred to as hierarchical layered sampling. Experiments are presented showing that the performance of the system is substantially improved by performing feature detection in colour space and including a prior with respect to skin colour. These components have been integrated into a real-time prototype system, applied to a test problem of controlling consumer electronics using hand gestures. In a simplified demo scenario, this system has been successfully tested by participants at two fairs during 2001.