Where is the Apple “Kinect”?

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”.


6 responses to “Where is the Apple “Kinect”?

  1. maybe in mac osx 11.. or will it be iOSX 11?? 😛

    and i feel apple won’t be trying it out on the mac os straight-away.. just like what they have done with apple tv. apple tv could have been given most of the features of google tv (the hardware is capable, and so is the iOS underneath it).. but they are just testing waters with minimal features or probably ‘educating’ the customers about the direction in which tv is headed. I feel it will be a similar thing with apple’s “kinect”..

    on a second thought, apple is in a better position to provide ‘mac os kinect’.. because they are the hardware vendors and they can casually say this os won’t work on old mac systems, they are good at that… whereas with windows, it won’t be easy to make a new os which works solely on some new tech. It will take a long time for windows users to adopt this kind of a radical shift.

    lets wait and eagerly listen to the ‘and one more thing’ from steve’s keynote in 2012.

    p.s. rohit’s asking you to write that post on caste system. 😛

  2. oh! ‘and one more thing..’

    apple already has the “move” (in theory) and will be readily available by next apple tv update.
    what i mean is.. you’ll soon have games for apple tv which can be played with iPhone as the controller.

    This app (and couple of other games) uses ipad as the ‘console’ and is connected to the tv with a vga adapter and iPhone/iPod Touch is the controller

    • yeah the iphone/ipod as a controller is a current use-case. More like a stop-gap arrangement. But im sure Stevie is drooling about the possibility of announcing to the world a “controller free” experience and such stuff. Its just the kind of product/feature he would announce.

      @rohit: yeah will do that sometime 😛

  3. The actual creators of the kinect went to Apple first, then sony and then to microsoft. Apple had 1008 conditions and terms which were smothering, sony dismissed it saying its not going to take off. Microsoft lapped it up. Going by it, I am sure that microsoft would take it into windows. We do have technologies where the mouse cursor is moved with just thoughts. You need to wear a head gear though. Kinect with windows would be awesome. We could see something like in minority report? In fact, we have something similar with the camera, projector and color tags on fingers. I assume this was invented by an Indian in MIT. The video was on TED. Now we have microsoft as the proprietor of this technology, we would see something daring and innovative in windows.

    Apple, on the other hand seems to be moving more towards IOS and the apps market on every product they have or rather try to make new products so that apps can be built for them! That seems to be their big idea. I am expecting revolutions in the mac with may be a touch screen instead of a keyboard, by which each application can have its own layout of keys ? Make the entire keyboard area a touch surface, you have got an ipad with a screen with macos and app world.. I am just thinking out loud and am in no mood to get the grammar right.. Apple and Kinect technology..Is it a missed opportunity or do Apple have something better? Apple tv with gaming? Similar to kinect ? Apple wants its presence in the living room, why have separate devices to watch tv and play games??

    Just thinking out loud… 🙂

    • i guess a touch screen as a keyboard will make an already over-priced device pricier 😛
      they have the trackpad now which supports multi-touch and i guess theyll only focus on developing that but not a full fledged “touch-screen”.

      but the larger point here is what is the future of input devices?

      When apple bought some chip design companies about a year or two back the markets were buzz with the speculation of an Apple gaming console. Eventually people realized that the acquisitions were for the iPhone’s A4 processor. But fact is that Apple has such huge cash reserves of $51bn that they can get into almost anything. Steve Jobs has recently told that they have some plans for that cash reserve for utilizing it for some “strategic opportunities in the future”.

  4. Ulag, I agree. the 51B$ is something we have to see. But regarding the touchscreen, they recently seem to have a patent in their name which incorporates OLED . This keyboard technology is not new, but I guess these guys would take it to the next level. I think adding the touch screen would just make a new breed of laptops.. But to think ofit.. that would be interesting concept.. I am assuming, that apple in future would integrate apple tv, gaming, the rest of their devices to become a inevitable part of your day to day activity.. thats the only thing I see as of now.. Their next update is expected in Jan is it ? Or is it in April ? They would do soemthing, keeping 51 B $ idle is wasted money.

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