Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan got a lengthy tour of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, the upcoming gaming peripheral that detects 3D motion with a camera and captures audio with microphones. His conclusion? This is the future for Microsoft, an idea with boundless possibilities that will spread far beyond gaming.
One project manager said Kinect’s technology could some day allow Star Trek Holodeck-style environments, no joke.
Pondering this, I can’t help but draw parallels to the way Apple has approached multi-touch. After popularizing two-finger scrolling in MacBooks, and gestures like pinch-to-zoom on the iPhone, Apple has steadily expanded the role of multi-touch in all its computer products. First came the multi-touch Magic Mouse, then the iPad, and now the Magic Trackpad. Apple put its faith in flat, pressure-sensitive surfaces, and it’s paying off. Microsoft is investing in the air, and hopes to see a similar expansion.
Motion control and multi-touch are not all that different in spirit. Both input methods are supposed to feel natural, as if there’s no barrier between you and the machine. This is especially true with Apple’s iOS devices, with which you interact simply by touching what you see. On the downside, neither input method solves the problem of physical feedback; anyone who’s tried typing on an iPad without looking at the keys should understand why that’s an issue.
For now, Microsoft and Apple are not having an input war. Multi-touch emerged from personal computing, and remains entrenched in it. Kinect’s origins are entertainment, and the technology will probably work back to the computer as an accessory for multitmedia and communications.
To oversimplify, Microsoft’s trying to kill the game controller and the remote control, and Apple wants to slay the mouse, and maybe the keyboard, but it’s clear that both companies have input revolution on the brain. They complement each other beautifully.