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Kinecting with business

Movies are often a preview for what happens in real life – a few years, if not decades later. Whether it’s cars or spaceships, buildings or hoverpacks, or simply the way people live and work, many movies have acted as an insight into what could happen in the future.

Released in 2002, or eight years ago, the wizardry in Minority Report inspired a world of technologists, who imagined interacting with computer hardware and software using touch and gestures. The arrival of Apple’s iPhone disrupted a market with its multi-touch capabilities, and now Microsoft is poised to do the same with its newly released Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360 game console.


Minority Report 


So what is Kinect? Primarily targeted at the gaming community, the positioning of Kinect is simple: “You are the controller.” Put another way, the device enables you to control a videogame by using a sensor to track your body movement and recognise your face; voice recognition is also part of the mix. In the gaming world, this enables you to jump, duck, spin and move your limbs to make things happen – no physical videogame controller is required.

It sounds fantastical, but the Kinect is the new “big thing” – not only according to Microsoft: 2.5 million units of Kinect have been sold in its first 25 days of release. Note the language used: these are sold units, actually purchased by customers; there is no PR spin machine trying to account for (either yet-to-be or never-to-be) unsold units that are sitting in warehouses or shops.

As is so often the case with consumer products, the arrival of Kinect could be a precursor for how we interact with business applications in the future. While there have been many false starts when it comes to productivity gains driven by technology – we’re still yet to talk to our PCs in any meaningful way – it appears we’re becoming increasingly more accepting of new methods of interacting with our devices.

The way in which multi-touch has been embraced has changed how we expect to interact with smartphones, tablets and a subset of PCs; with Kinect, the question now becomes one of whether we are going to soon be gesturing at our computers?

Microsoft is no doubt looking at what options could become available, and while it’s unlikely that we’ll all be sitting in front of our laptops and gesturing at the screens, given particular use cases Kinect could have potential.

An obvious, simplistic example is using Kinect to control a PowerPoint presentation. Imagine standing in front of a customer and gesturing or using one’s voice to move from one part of the presentation to the next, or highlighting particular aspects of the presentation.

Or think of a BI solution – even a dashboard – where you can immerse yourself in the data, interacting with it in a myriad ways.

They’re generic examples, applying minimal imagination, but what about different industries? What about an architect showing a customer a 3D model of a new architectural design, walking through the rooms and opening and closing doors? Or how about this being used in a retail environment, recognising customers and letting them find their way around a shop or retail experience?

We’re only going to be limited by our imaginations. Now that the core technology is here; we need to think about new ways of using it. Already there is an active community exploring how Kinect’s can be applied to different scenarios and it will be interesting to see how gestural computing will evolve in the next few years. Forget the mouse and keyboard, forget touch, now you really can point and click.

What other business uses for Kinect could there be?



Posted by: Tim Howell, Marketing Manager | 03 December 2010

Tags: xBox, Kinect, touch computing

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