Why we should be excited about Kinect SDK

Kinect - potential is massive
Kinect - potential is massive

I'm currently cleaning sticky fingerprints off my plasma screen television, and it's all Kinect's fault.

You see, I recently looked after my two-year-old niece and three-year-old nephew and decided that it would be the perfect time to break the plastic seal on a dusty old copy of Kinectimals that had been sat waiting for some attention.

I'll level with you, it's not a great game, and it's rendered even worse by the fact that the Kinect sensor *really* doesn't like two kids with very little spacial awareness running willy-nilly in front of it waving and trying to stroke Boo the snow leopard pup.

And yet, despite them quickly growing bored of the games – pitched at children a few years older – both of them loved being able to (somewhat haphazardly) manipulate what was happening on screen.

Kinect - a rallying point for a new ui

Even to a very small child, moving to cause an action elsewhere makes sense very quickly, talking to get a reaction makes sense. And it is difficult to watch this in action and not begin to get a sense of the kind of computer control these kids will be showing to their offspring in years to come.

Kinect has been a phenomenal success for Microsoft; and although many are prepared to write off the innovation in the complex motion and voice sensor ("we tried it and rejected it," sniffed rivals) what it represents is truly exciting.

The early Kinect games are, frankly, pretty mundane, taking the most basic precepts of the sensor tech and applying lessons learned by devs on the Wii.

But, the imperfections appear to be largely in the implementation of the technology rather than the technology in itself, and the arrival of an SDK for Kinect for Windows promises to bring some exciting times.

Kinect - new ideas

Mouse alive

Over the last 10 years I've written several pieces in defence of the mouse, pointing out that, should a Minority Report style UI be generally adopted, doctors across the planet would be treating us for UIShoulder and the law courts dealing with lawsuits for accidental head damage to all of those walking past the computer users.

Voice too has massive limitations, not least that none of us would really like to be working in an open plan office listening to Deidre from marketing trying to vocally fill in an excel spreadsheet.

However, it's too easy to be sniffy about the new control mechanisms by looking at them all individually rather than in harness with each other.

As much as gamers aren't ready to give up their joysticks, workers are a long way from being ready to relinquish their mouse.

But there are times, and these times are expanding with new technology, when integrating different control mechanisms is useful and, honestly, a little bit exciting to consider.

Years of so-called voice control of mobile phones (CALL!!!! JOHN!!!! 'calling Don') has left us all rightfully cynical about voice control, and motion control games have left us much more aware of how lag between movement and action can frustrate.

Yet, these technologies are improving rapidly; the likes of Google are talking up voice control as the future, as are luminaries like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Life integration

And motion control, as in a computer constantly monitoring your movement for clues as to what we actually want to do as well as interpreting commands, will be a massive step towards integrating technology more usefully into our lives.

The Kinect is just one example of an early foray into these areas; it does not represent the true face of natural control any more than the room-sized, punch-card controlled computers of old represent an iPad.

It is merely an early and exciting step towards a bright new world; a world where the way in which we interact with machines is more intuitive, more natural and less of a barrier to making a computer understand exactly what we want.


Liked this? Then check out Kinect hacked into robotic shopping trolley

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Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.