Kinect Hacks Finally Legitimate – Is Skype Next? Microsoft Releases Developer Kit for Motion- and Sound-Sensing Controller

6/16/11Follow @curtwoodward

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going to do—what is the magic they’re going to create.” Gupta said some of his favorite early uses include a mounted controller for a quadrocopter, technology aimed at helping visually impaired people, and the ability to be a virtual orchestra conductor by changing volume, tempo, and other musical features with your hands.

Gupta said he could talk all day about the new possibilities for Kinect. That would have been fine with me, but the PR people wouldn’t really allow me to hijack their scientist for a nine-hour futuristic download. Nevertheless, Gupta had some tantalizing highlights in mind.

The first thing he mentioned was videoconferencing, which is particularly interesting in light of the Skype acquisition, as I mentioned above. “If you have a 3D model of the person that is there and is being understood in real time, you can place people in virtual meeting environments, depending on where the other people are,” Gupta said. “It makes it very realistic in that you can understand who is talking, where somebody is, doing what kind of activity.”

Gupta also said he sees lots of opportunities in robotics, where 3D sensing and controls are paramount; in retail, where billboards or window displays can recognize people and draw interaction, as shown in this earlier experiment with Nordstrom; and in automobiles, including user interfaces that can detect and distinguish between a number of people in a car.

This Kinect strategy is kind of a no-brainer for Microsoft, which often gets criticized for being a behemoth business-software company that can’t capture consumer imagination like its rivals. Xbox in general has always been the glaring exception to that rule, and the Kinect was a big leap ahead—when it came out, Sony’s PlayStation 3 was issuing a handheld motion-sensing controller that was basically a Nintendo Wii copycat.

Gupta said there’s more testing and quality-control work to be done before Microsoft gets serious about a commercial version. Properly executing on that opportunity will be a big test in the market’s eyes. As Gupta mentioned, it’s an order-of-magnitude opportunity: Moving from tens of millions of gamers to potentially hundreds of millions of Windows PC users. “I think the possibilities are limitless in what people can do,” Gupta said.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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