Unless you are a gamer, you may not have heard of Microsoft’s Kinect, or at least haven’t paid attention. But you will.
I’ve always been amazed at how science fiction can predict, inspire and even dictate real innovation. Jules Verne predicted the moon landing in very close detail, Star Trek gave us touch screen and voice-commanded computers and flip phones, Mark Twain predicted the Internet nearly 100 years before it ‘s current form. HG Wells predicted the Atomic Bomb in 1914. More recently, I was impressed by many of the “future technology” from the film Minority Report.
In the last case, the part that got me at first was how most of the inventions weren’t overreaching or particularly ambitious. Holographic imaging, flexible displays, targeted advertisements, sick sticks (nonlethal weapon that induces vomiting as its method of incapacitation – one of my favorite sci-fi inventions ever), and gesture-based user interface. I can’t confirm whether sick sticks exist yet, but now everything else does.
The Kinect was a combination camera/microphone/infared floodlight meant to use the human body as a controller in games for the Xbox 360 console. It seems to have come as a surprise to Microsoft that scientists and other bright minds saw a greater potential and hacked together software to let it run in other unintended applications, particularly in scientific and medical communities.
As an enthusiastic IT professional, any and all uses for this device fall within my realm, but getting back to films inspiring innovation, I’m most excited to see advances in gesture-based interfacing. I don’t believe the keyboard or mouse will go away anytime soon, but imagine the power of such a device when sitting at your computer. As a microphone and video camera, it can provide biometric security – detect when you are sitting at your computer and discern when someone else is. You can give verbal commands, and even hand gestures to manipulate objects on the screen. Carpal tunnel syndrome could be virtually a thing of the past, and you could potentially go for hours without ever having to touch an “old-school” mouse or keyboard.
It was recently announced that Kinect support would be integrated into Microsoft’s next operating system, aptly titled Windows 8, at the same time as they released an official Kinect SDK (Software Development Kit) so there is no further need for software engineers to cobble together their own.
Bottom line is that gesture interface or “Natural User Interface” is here, and it’s a game-changer.