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Hand gesture recognition based man-machine interface is being developed vigorously in recent years. Due to the effect of lighting and complex background, most visual hand gesture recognition systems work only under restricted environment. An adaptive skin color model based on face detection is utilized to detect skin color regions like hands. To classify the dynamic hand gestures, we developed a simple and fast motion history image based method. Four groups of haar-like directional patterns were trained for the up, down, left, and right hand gestures classifiers. Together with fist hand and waving hand gestures, there were totally six hand gestures defined. In general, it is suitable to control most home appliances. Five persons doing 250 hand gestures at near, medium, and far distances in front of the web camera were tested. Experimental results show that the accuracy is 94.1% in average and the processing time is 3.81 ms per frame. These demonstrated the feasibility of the proposed system.