Kinect: Death to the Mouse
There are a few things I would like to say about Microsoft’s Kinect.
Firstly, I am now the proud owner of one – yes, it was one of those impulse, suddenly-got-to-have-it, Christmas presents for the family.
Secondly – and surprisingly – it wasn’t me that led the charge here. It was my wife.
Note: I was a big gamer in the past, but I haven’t really touched a console for a good few years. My wife, on the other hand, isn’t a gamer and never was one.
So why now?
Well, the attraction has to be the way in which you engage with the console – it is completely hands-free i.e. there’s no need for a controller – something that perhaps for many was the barrier to entering the gaming world in the past. At the end of the day, how many non-gaming friends or family have you heard say things like “It looks too technical”, “It is too ‘gamer’-like”; or “What the hell do all these buttons do?!”.
The Wii obviously stole the charge here, and shook up the gaming world – creating the first truly family-friendly console. Now, you can say that the Kinect followed its lead, taking it to the next level. And it really has.
Yes, there aren’t that many games for it right now. And yes, it does mean my wife gets to see her husband attempt to “street dance” playing Dance Central (very impressive game by the way) and then gloat at being much, much better than I am. But I will get better, and the games will become more abundant. I can really see sport titles (tennis, football…etc.) being hugely popular with users, as well as the world of martial art and beat-em up games coming into their own.
The Kinect experience really exceeded my expectations. I would have thought that it would have either taken an age to painstakingly set-up and calibrate, or that it would have been inaccurate on movements and laggy. It’s none of these things – a short two-minute calibration and you’re away – and it tracks every movement you make, completely accurately (legs, arms, head, body angles). It really is an impressive bit of kit and surprisingly affordable considering what it does.
This, I see, really is a game changer – and when they improve the accuracy even further to be able to respond to very minor face gestures and finger movements (which surely is only a matter of time) gaming really will enter a whole new and exciting chapter.
However… As a tech guy, I can’t help but think the Kinect is, or could be, so much more. I’m actually surprised that Microsoft released this technology first as a gaming device. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it wasn’t destined for other things when first developed in Microsoft Research labs, but pushed out to the gaming market to meet the challenge posed by Nintendo with the Wii. Kinect is, in all intense and purpose, a 3D controller for interfacing with computers. It is the Minority report UI controller – but look, no need for gloves Tom.
I really do hope, and having worked with Microsoft in my past life expect, that the company is working on new UI’s – with 3 Dimensions. Akin to this great TED lecture by the researcher, John Underkoffler, who was actually consulted during the filming of Minority Report: 3D UI
A brainy team from MIT have already put Kinect through its paces (one of many homebrew style hacks of the system) and developed a hand detection system, which is sophisticated enough to recognise the position of palms and fingers. Looking at this demo, it looks pretty Minority Report to me.
The humble mouse, is being attacked by all sides now – touch and now free movement, it will soon also be via brain control if Brain powerby Tan Lee is anything to go by.
The future of computing is exciting, the future is almost certainly 3-Dimensional and definitely mouse free.