Microsoft Kinect in the enterprise: Not just for gaming

Microsoft Kinect

Today, Microsoft is releasing its Windows SDK for Kinect -- its webcam-style, 3D, motion-sensing input gizmo. Originally sold as an Xbox 360 peripheral, Kinect is now getting people excited by its potential to change the way business users interact with PCs. Seriously, Richi? A gaming peripheral? Yes, I'm serious; take a look, in The Long View...

Almost as soon as Microsoft unveiled what was first known as Project Natal, user interface researchers have been drooling over the potential of Kinect. When they first got their hands on the finished device, they quickly realized that, despite Microsoft's reputation, it was surprisingly easy to reverse engineer the protocol. It plugs into a PC via USB; the commands and responses were fairly simple to work out. It was inexpensive and had some very sophisticated capabilities. Since then, imaginations have run riot all over the world. Some of these ideas point to new and exciting ways to work with PCs -- not for gaming, but for business. Read on... So, for less than $200, you had a device that could detect human gestures, including depth perception, and facial recognition. It can even track several people simultaneously. It also has a surprisingly sophisticated, four-way microphone array, which can do echo cancellation, noise suppression, source localization, and voice recognition. The obvious early ideas were demonstrations inspired by the science fiction movie Minority Report. Typical was the Google Chrome extension from the MIT Media Lab, called DepthJS. Here's a quick video:

While "cool," it's hard to see this sort of capability maturing into a brand new, paradigm-shifting way of controlling your PC. More work was required. More recent work includes this demonstration of 3D object manipulation from German company Evoluce:

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