Microsoft released ‘Kinect’, its all new motion control system for the Xbox, last week. Kinect is an Xbox peripheral which allows users to play games without the need for a hand-held controller. The Kinect basically uses a camera and sensors to track the movements of the player’s body and translates that into the specific action on-screen. Think players swinging their arms at Table Tennis or throwing punches in Boxing. The Kinect hardware system as such has been receiving mostly positive reviews with users pointing out the need for having a very controlled environment and a lag in games as the only negative points.
For long I have wondered about the feasibility of a game controller which would make gamers stand in front of their TVs and swing their arms and jump and perform all sorts of juvenile actions. You see, we gamers are essentially a lazy lot. A bunch of couch potatoes if you will. Theres nothing more we would like than to unwind by slinking on the couch, playing the latest Call of Duty while hogging on a bowl of chips dipped in mayo. But more on that later.
Point is, the Kinect is a revolutionary way to interact with game systems and any system for that matter. It also has voice-recognition which allows users to issue voice commands to the Xbox. Combine the voice recognition and gesture recognition features and we have an intelligent way to interact with our computers or A.I systems.
We could give voice commands to run programs and use hand gestures to navigate through menus . Its a whole new user-experience. While the input systems for mobile devices have shifted from hardware keypads to touch screens in the last 5 years, the input systems for the PCs have still remained pretty much what they were in in the 1990’s. High time for a change don’t you think? Touch-screens have not seeped into the PC space as, research has shown (and as Steve Jobs pointed out recently) that touch-screens are not easy-to-use for vertical displays i.e our PC monitors. Its called the Gorilla Arm Syndrome. So, that rules out touch screen inputs for our PCs. The next logical step would be voice commands and/or gesture recognition.
And Kinect has shown that this is feasible. Is it possible that Kinect for the Xbox was a testing ground for this feature to be implemented in Microsoft Windows too? Steve Ballmer has already mentioned that Windows 8 will be their most risky venture till date. Does Microsoft have plans of using this Kinect system as a new mode of user interaction in the next Windows?
And if Microsoft has such plans, can Apple be far behind? Steve Jobs definitely prides himself on revolutionizing the music and mobile phone industries. He brought mobile touch screens in vogue, changing the way people used their mobile devices. I’m dead sure hes got an eye on the Kinect and realizes how it can change every single form of device-user-interaction across all industries. While the next Mac OS Lion does not have any such features, there’s no telling that Apple is not already working on its own Kinect-like system for its Mac and other devices like Apple TV. With his strong focus on providing an innovative high quality user-experience on Apple products its only a question of when, and not if, Steve Jobs will announce Apple’s own “Kinect”.