Microsoft shows off Avatar Kinect shortly before expected release

Summary:Microsoft execs have been talking up Avatar Kinect -- the ability to conduct virtual meetings among avatars using the Kinect sensor -- for months. Finally, the release date for the technology seems close at hand.

Microsoft execs have been talking up Avatar Kinect -- the ability to conduct virtual meetings among avatars using the Kinect sensor -- for months.

The concept, which Microsoft originally shared in the fall of 2010 when its officials talked up the idea of holding virtual meetings using the company's Lync unified communications technology, is a little creepy at first. Instead of using a Webcam image of yourself, you use an avatar to interact with others in a multi-participant conversation over the Web. It's probably not as weird to gamers as it might be to enterprise users. But that's a big part of the potential audience Microsoft sees for the technology.

To demonstrate how Avatar Kinect can work in a business setting, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie conducted an interview on July 15 with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo using Avatar Kinect. (Having done a couple of interviews with Bartiromo myself in the past, I think the avatar approach would be my preferred interaction method with her.)

Microsoft officials touted Avatar Kinect at the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year. The technology was expected to go final this past spring. Now rumors have it that Avatar Kinect could finally launch next week.

Microsoft Research has done some investigative work around avatar realism. The findings? Avatars should be somewhat real, but not too real, in the workplace setting. And if you're wondering why Microsoft is advocating avatars over real-time live webcam images for chat, it's largely about the bandwidth savings.

Topics: Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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