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AFAIK hand detection is unsolved problem, especially without colour information. You're right, hand can take any form, so it is quite difficult to detect it. And I don't know about any algorithm which can provide you with good results in arbitrary conditions.

What you can try to detect is hand gesture. You can analyze motion pattern and then report if some predefined gesture was detected. Check this page to see what is available on the market: Please note that they detect only simple gestures, and the hand occupies almost the whole frame.

I don't know how exactly do they do it. May be they use the Motion History Images (MHI), Motion History Histograms or something completely different... I don't know unfortunately.