How Microsoft Kinect changed technology
November 11th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

How Microsoft Kinect changed technology

By John D. Sutter, CNN

When Microsoft Kinect - the Xbox gaming camera that reads your body motions - came onto the scene about a year ago, there were plenty of signs that body gestures were going to start controlling technological gizmos of all sorts.

After all, the Wii, which debuted in 2006, popularized the idea that technology should be able to sense what your body is doing - without pushing a button. And, if nothing else, the movie "Minority Report" (and the real-world researcher, John Underkoffler, who made that possible) showed us that we'd soon be able to control computers and TVs with the wave of a hand.

In the year since Kinect, sci-fi versions of this no-remote reality have started to become real. Technologists are attaching motion-sensing cameras to all kinds of things - using them to control consumer electronics and contribute to scientific research. And they're tapping into old-school cameras, too, turning simple gadgets like smartphones into body reading machines.

More on this trend from ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick:

Multitouch, voice search, gestures. Those are now some of the most potent points of intersection between human will and computational power. Could this new stage of interface change the world as much as the transition from the Command Line to the GUI did? It may very well.

MIT Technology Review says gesture interfaces, in the wake of Wii and Kinect, are going mainstream:

The first demonstrations of what gestural interfaces could offer beyond gaming came from enterprising hackers who did things like using a Wii controller to steer a Roomba robotic vacuum, and academic researchers like those those in Microsoft's labs who adapted the Kinect to do things such as creating a 3-D model of a user's whole body. Analyst firm Markets & Markets estimates that the market for the hardware and software components needed to enable gesture recognition in products such as the Kinect was worth $200 million in 2010 and will be worth $625 million by 2015.

Take a look at this promo video from Microsoft, which shows all kinds of potential uses for the technology - from playing a virtual violin to teaching a class about DNA. It's promotional, obviously, but still pretty fascinating:

Plenty of stuff kind of like that is already happening in the real world. Take this example of music mixing - enhanced by a motion-sensor:

Games are being rebuilt around this idea, too. Here's a Kinect hack of Tetris, where a gentleman controls the pieces by waving his hands and moving his head. Maybe this isn't the most elegant way to play the classic Nintendo game, but it's one of many examples of how hackers are taking Kinect's motion-capture tech and doing whatever they like with it:

Another Kinect hack uses Microsoft's motion-sensing camera to help a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner "see" the space it's cleaning:

Finally, plenty of spin-off companies are capitalizing on the idea of gesture-controlled technology.

Here's a company that is trying to make this idea work on tablets and phones:

And, from LG, one that's taking the idea of a gesture-commanded home entertainment center to a slightly different place - with a remote control you can use to wave your way from one screen to the next:

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Filed under: Innovation • Tech
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Bernard Blumpie

    I am skilled with this stuff. Also I am good at COD, I take out noobs like you.

    November 19, 2011 at 1:41 am | Reply
    • Hasaan

      Upcoming MSPoll solhud be interesting, especially around confidence in the executive leadership and liking where the direction of the company is going. Too bad "Hell no" is not one of the choices for an answer.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Reply
  2. JG

    It sucks that Nintendo pretty much "kiddie-fied" the whole motion control thing to the point of it being "cool" to make fun of. People always say the same tired, stupid things when talking about Kinect. "Why should I wave my arms in the air like a retard?". You see, people are pretty stupid, and they can't see technological innovation when it's right in front of their face. This sensor and ones like it are the future. They are going to replace your remote controls and keyboard and mouse.

    "Replace my keyboard and mouse?!?!?!? Are you INSANE!!!" I can hear you say. If that was your thought, you're one of the stupid ones.

    November 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  3. xdougx

    Kinect basically constructs a skeleton. Literally hundreds of algorithms for doing this on all types of data have been invented. CNN reporters need to do their homework first before making these grandiose claims.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  4. sdds

    You are aware that any self respecting gamer wouldn't be caught dead playing with Kinect?

    November 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Reply
    • McDeath

      For me and you, sure...but what about all those gamers we pwn? Those guys need a mind-machine interface to beat us.

      November 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Reply
    • DAISHI

      There's no such thing as a self respecting gamer.

      November 15, 2011 at 2:37 am | Reply
    • JG

      I game on Kinect all the time. I will destroy you at any game.

      November 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  5. Lewis

    It's a fantastic technology even if still in it's infancy. I love my Kinect just for doing mundane things on the XBox. Well done.

    November 14, 2011 at 8:34 am | Reply
  6. Mime

    You too can be a great mime!

    November 14, 2011 at 6:02 am | Reply
    • Abdou

      "Kinect is a hit bseuace it leapfrogs Wii by a mile"Sweet zombie jesus, Wii was released in 2006. TWO THOUSAND AND SIX.Generals, always fighting the last war.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  7. John b

    well soon we will be to fat to walk so haveing this will help in that. Just a wave of the hand will clean your house or get the robot crain to lift you out of the chair.pop that dinner in the wavematic oven. Yes the good time are comeing but my arms are limp at my sides do you have a app for that

    November 12, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  8. Miss Demeanor

    Apes invented hand gestures. Just go to the zoo sometime. Thanks CNN, for pointing out some other-than-apple technology. Your Apple bias was getting too blatant.

    November 12, 2011 at 4:08 am | Reply
  9. VegasRage

    Oh my God! Quick call the CNN Apple division, they let Microsoft slip through the cracks, DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

    November 12, 2011 at 12:47 am | Reply
    • sdds


      November 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  10. steve clayton

    congrats on the new blog guys – love it, especially the name 🙂
    take a look at Holodesk from Microsoft Research...another amazing use of Kinect

    Oh and augmented projectors too

    November 11, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  11. figleaf59

    Check this out, the mind boggles!

    November 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Reply

    i need to lean,4 something.why politics people fighting each other?

    November 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  13. Nathan Sokalski

    I didn't like the switch from stylus to touch, and I don't think I want to leave the keyboard and mouse, either. Gestures are fine for video games, but nothing else.

    November 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • veggiedude

      In 10 years, it will be common to be controlling things in the home as soon as we walk through the door, with gestures and voice.

      November 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  14. vincent john vincent

    As the inventors of the technology behind the Kinect we are happy to see this perspective. This is a great article on the potential of this technology. What is missing is the mention of the fact that GestureTek invented Gesture Recognition and Control with 3d depth cameras in 2000 ( longer before the movie Minority report even gave the world a glimpse of the idea ), and GestureTek pioneered this feild with installations around the world for 11 years. What Microsoft has done is to make it affordable, and put it into our homes, and the hands of a world wide development community who are applying it to their feilds of creativity.

    November 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Reply

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