What would a Kinectified PC look like?

What would a Kinectified PC look like?

Summary: On November 4, Microsoft began selling its Kinect sensors for Xbox at retail. Gamers -- and those with a hidden inner gamer just waiting to break free without a controller -- your star ship has arrived. But what about those of us who don't care about gaming?

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On November 4, Microsoft began selling its Kinect sensors for Xbox at retail. Gamers -- and those with a hidden inner gamer just waiting to break free without a controller -- your star ship has arrived.

But what about those of us who don't care about gaming (even of the non-shooter variety)? Those who don't have TVs, and/or enough room in their apartments, dorm rooms or tree houses to wave our hands and partake of the current Kinect offering? We may not have to wait all that long to derive some benefit from Microsoft's newly commercialized NUI (natural user interface).

Gallery: Xbox 360 Kinect plays without a controller

If you hearken back to those Windows 8 partner slides that leaked earlier this year, you may recall that facial recognition and proximity sensing were on the short list off NUI interactions possible by 2012 (the likely delivery date of Microsoft's next operating system release).

Want to simulate driving in a game on your "Lap PC"? The Kinect technology, incorporated into the guts of new PCs, could turn your Windows 8 slate into a virtual steering wheel. If you enter a room, wouldn't it be cool (or maybe creepy) if your PC recognized you and turned itself on? Or what if it turned itself off if you left the room, thanks to the sensor-recognition technology? Or dimmed itself if you looked down for a set period of time, engaged in another project? All of these potential scenarios were outlined in the leaked Windows 8 deck.

Of course, because it was fairly early (April 2010) when the Windows 8 deck was authored, none of these NUI technologies may end up inside Windows 8 PCs. "Possible" features don't always graduate to the final feature list. It wouldn't be the first time that the Redmondians' gesture-recognition plans were put on the back burner (as those who recall Microsoft's early Windows Mobile 7 plans may recall).

However, it is clear that Microsoft's longer term plan is to make use of Kinect or Kinect-like sensor technology into more than just its gaming consoles.

Do you want more gesture and voice recognition controls in your next PC? Would a clap-on/clap-off PC float your boat?

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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40 comments
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  • I agree - Microsoft Surface - Windows Touch

    Thats an example of Microsoft using products throughout its various divisions to pollinate new versions of Windows with features. Personally, I don't know yet if this is something I will be interested, since I am not even a fan of Windows Touch. Then again, if Microsoft does figure out a way to make the PC's more "personal" and interactive, then thats good. It would be good for energy efficiency too. So, if I leave my room for long or sudden, the PC will know to go into low power mode or hibernation without any manual interaction. It will know the minute I drive into my garage to at least boot up so the only thing I have to log in and see my desktop. When you think about the benefits, it actually does turn out to be more useful than Windows Touch.
    Mr. Dee
    • I think it will expand more than just sense...

      @Mr. Dee

      I can imagine interacting with the computer via hand movements. Imagine working on a desktop, and need to go somewhere. Just "grab" your work/desktop/browser/etc and "throw" it on a tablet, that instantly powers on with the same screen you just had on your desktop.

      There was a scene like this in "Avatar" that just blew me away.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

        @Cylon Centurion 0005 I think that is unnecessary considering that the power of the cloud by 2012 and roaming capabilities should make it possible to have access to your information, applications anywhere, any device.
        Mr. Dee
      • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

        @Cylon Centurion 0005

        I agree. This kind of natural input would completely negate the need for touch on the desktop.
        RationalGuy
      • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

        @Cylon Centurion 0005
        to me touch on a desktop doesn't work. Nobody wants to keep stretching out to touch their monitor. Thats just as annoying as reaching for the mouse. Considering we are a culture of uber lazy and we want it now, gesturing at the screen is much faster. Heck, even better if it can detect your eye movement so you can scroll a page based on your eyes. With monitors going larger and larger and using multiple monitor desktops, dragging and dropping will be a pain to do with a mouse.
        rengek
      • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

        @Cylon Centurion 0005 Don't forget Minority Report! That movie still seems to be a pretty believeable showcase of potential future technology, despite the fact it was made 8 years ago... grab 'n go workstations, self-driving cars, personally-tailored advertisements... it's all happening!
        jmwells21
    • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

      @Mr. Dee I agree and I hate to say this but think about how it was used in the movie Minority Report...could be interesting for all kinds of industrial, science etc.
      ItsTheBottomLine
  • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

    Face-recognition will be awesome, if only to lock the screen when you left your desk, and login when you return. Great opportunity too to save some energy by running the system down, switch off some CPU core etc.

    BTW, voice-recognition has been part of windows for years, but perfected in Win7, only most people can't affort array mics, and MSFT doesn't market voice in Windows 7 as much as they should.
    eInfinity
    • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

      @eInfinity

      <i>Face-recognition will be awesome, if only to lock the screen when you left your desk, and login when you return.</i>

      It would be too easy to hack in with a realistic sculpted head.
      RationalGuy
      • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

        @RationalGuy Hope no one pulls a Hannibal Lector on me just to use my computer for anything nefarious, lol.
        Alchemist001
      • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

        @RationalGuy But the average person would be too unimportant to be worth the expense of doing this.
        bootsnspurs1965-1
    • Face Recognition has been around for a long time

      @eInfinity You don't need any special equipment, just a camera and software.
      Even plain old iPhoto has it.
      yobtaf
  • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

    And from what I am hearing from Kinect review, the voice-recog function works so well, so why not take it one step further MSFT, produce affordable Mic Array units excluding the camera and 3D scanning aspect.

    With these Mics strategically placed around the house, we are getting to the Star-Trek errar where I can speak all around the house with my computer and it can recognize my commands. Home automation Nirvana I say!
    eInfinity
    • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

      @eInfinity
      Windows 7 already has the voice recognition built in, so can't you already do this with any regular mic setup?
      brendan@...
  • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

    With a high powered computer, you could increase performance of the Kinect. So it would work even better on a PC than an Xbox.
    bobkemp2123@...
  • The Future of Natural Interfaces

    I believe the next big interface technology for the PC is touch. Touch can deliver much more immersive user experiences than GUIs, and significantly more intuitive experiences as well. I think a Kinect type interface is great for 10 foot computing experiences.

    This great <a href=http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/10/gorilla-arm-multitouch/>Wired article</a> goes into the problems with trying to work with your hands above your heart for anything over short periods of time: your hands and arms become tired very quickly. This makes touch computing on vertical surfaces (including the type shown in the movie Minority Report), as well as Kinect type interactions with computers, impractical.

    Touch computing can work fine on inclined or horizontal surfaces. Kinect type interactions are great for 10 foot experiences such as interacting with your TV, doing presentations, and doing white board stuff (particularly at a distance). I'm not all that hopeful about voice as a means of interaction. A little bit of voice interaction here and there is fine. But vocal interactions (with the aim of having rich interactions) only make sense when you are communicating with something about as intelligent as yourself. I doubt this will ever happen with computers.
    P. Douglas
    • Kinect PC Experiences

      I believe Kinect type user interaction could take place in an operating room, where a surgeon is able to look at imagery for a patient on a large flat screen at a distance. Kinect experiences could be used in command centers found in military and business applications. In fact, large vertical computer screens (including TVs at homes and in bars) could routinely be manipulated by Kinect type interaction. So there is a lot of opportunity for this type computer interaction.
      P. Douglas
    • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

      @P. Douglas Maybe your hqands get tired, but if you'll notice, those that move their hands a lot, like orchestra conductors, live longer and have a lot fewer heart attacks so moving your hands around will help you live longer.
      Alchemist001
    • RE: What would a Kinectified PC look like?

      @P. Douglas
      If you get tired from gesturing too often wouldn't that be true of touch as well? In both cases your hand is leaving your keyboard and manipulating something be it air or a physical device. I much rather gesture at my screen to page down rather than reach over and stretch myself to touch the screen.
      rengek
      • Touch computing won't make you tire easily, but Kinect computing will

        @rengek,

        If you are doing touch computing on an inclined or horizontal surface, your hands and arms won't become tired easily, because your hands will be below your heart. You can ask architects if their hands become tired when they work for long periods of time on inclined drafting boards.

        Kinect type interactions ordinarily work well for 10 foot computing experiences when doing short bursts of activity. Kinect types of interactions can also work for long periods of time when playing games, because the user expects physical work outs. (But this is the exception, not the rule.) It is also possible that Kinect type devices could be used at regular PCs to provide the option for users to interact with them from a distance (e.g. playing games, doing interactive simulations / virtual reality scenarios, doing presentations, and consuming media). But this won't be the primary means of input. The primary means of input would be either touch or via a mouse and a keyboard.
        P. Douglas