I recently got the opportunity to check out the new Kinect (bundled with the Xbox One) using a pre-release version of the “Kinect for Windows SDK”. Although I don’t plan to buy a Kinect for gaming, I can certainly see a lot of advantages to this technology in business, especially the retail sector.
The Microsoft team demonstrated a number of the new capabilities, covering everything from multiple users, fine hand gestures, face tracking and even heart rate monitoring. It was all very impressive and looked great! There were a number of occasions where the framerate dropped (sometimes significantly), however this was likely due to the pre-release software.
In my opinion Kinect is the key device driving Natural User Interface (NUI) design, thanks to its relative low cost and global availability. We have already seen some amazing demos where Kinect is being used in shop windows to entice customers. I believe this has huge potential, for example, fashion retailers could allow customers to virtually try on items and even purchase them before they even enter the store (my kind of shopping).
I believe the best vision of this concept was shown in Minority Report, where “Kinect-like” sensors are used to identify the user and personalise advertisements in shop windows.
With Kinect 2.0 this fiction becomes a reality!
In my opinion the only disappointment is that Microsoft have not found a way to integrate Kinect with their own services. For example, I believe Windows 8 would have been a great opportunity to push the boundaries of NUI, showing how Kinect can enhance the user experience. The same can be said for services such as Skype and Lync, which are perfectly suited for Kinect.
When I asked this question, Microsoft gave a cryptic response, but alluded to the fact that tighter Kinect integration is coming. Unfortunately this is the sort of answer you give when you have no real answer. With that said, whether Microsoft proactively drive Kinect integration (my preference) or they wait for the developer community to do it for them, I’m confident NUI will play an important role in the future.
The new Kinect for Windows SDK is expected to be available soon, after the public release of the Xbox One in November. It’s then down to the developers to take advantage of these new capabilities. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!