Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kinect - Microsoft Promises a Platform Shift from GUI to NUI

In November 2010, Microsoft unveiled Kinect, a new type of user interface device for the the Xbox gaming console. Unlike traditional graphical user interface (GUI), Kinect relies on facial expressions, voice and hand gestures of the users - thereby making it a natural user interface (NUI), according to Microsoft. Earlier this year I had seen a Kinect commercial demonstrating how users 'talk' to their Xbox using body language, if you will. It looked very impressive. At a recent meeting at its Redmond campus event, Microsoft revealed that they plan to provide a SDK API for developers to build applications using Kinect. They went on to suggest that there will be ways for developers to build and sell programs based on Kinect through some sort of an application exchange.

In the interactivity space, we see Apple taking a lead and dominating in several categories including media players (iPod product line), tablets (iPad) and smart phones (iPhone). This of course is in addition to the Apple TV and the Macintosh line of computers. Gaming consoles is one area where we don't see Apple yet, and Microsoft has its position there with XBOX.

According to Microsoft, a large number of XBOX sales included the $150 Kinect since its announcement, and the company may see the two bought together a lot in the future.

The parallels between Xbox - Kinect combination and Windows-Office juggernaut of the last century are hard to miss. Microsoft has excelled in creating platforms, building a select number of critical applications and attracting developers to build the rest.

After several forays with mixed results in the spaces dominated by others (think Zune and Kin - for example), will Kinect prove to be a game-changing new introduction for Microsoft? If that happens, we will have another innovation in interactivity to celebrate. Developers will have another platform with fundamentally new interface capabilities to build interactive applications with.

Anybody wants to share insights which way Kinect is going? What kinds of applications can you think of?

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