Imagine What Kinect Can Do

December 1, 2010
Will the New Platform Change Our Game for Better or Worse?

Richard Millson (richard.millson@millson.net) owns Millson Technologies, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Perspective #1: “Pack your bags. It’s over.”

If you were just getting used to the tidal wave of change triggered by the introduction of a little game-changer called the iPad, then you better hold onto your hat. Get ready for the next chapter in the decimation of our industry known as “Kinect.”

As you have no doubt heard by now, Microsoft recently began shipping its new Xbox360 console complete with the small horizontal bar that allows the system to operate without a controller. Microsoft describes the experience this way: “Kinect brings games and entertainment to life in extraordinary new ways without using a controller. Imagine controlling movies and music with the wave of a hand or the sound of your voice.”

If, at this point, you are thinking that some new gaming gizmo is not going to impact your business, then you are missing the point entirely.


Kinect Adventures Obstacle Course

Gaming is Just the Beginning
There are three core technologies built into the Kinect system: speech recognition, facial recognition, and gesture recognition. Individually, each of these has existed in one form or another for years and before now they were mostly slow, buggy, unreliable, or just plain didn’t work. Microsoft has spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars to refine and integrate these three technologies to create a new kind of gaming experience that does not require a controller. But look a little closer and you begin to see why this technical breakthrough could be very bad for our industry.

Notice that the quote from Microsoft above mentions “controlling movies and music with the wave of a hand or the sound of your voice.” There’s no mention of gaming there. Now imagine that Microsoft licenses these technologies for use in completely unrelated industries in the same way they already have to Ford, who now offers the Microsoft “Sync” speech recognition in their vehicles.

Imagine a world in which you can reliably arm and disarm you security system or unlock your front door with nothing more than your voice (after the system uses facial recognition to verify your identity, of course.)


Kinectimals

Imagine all the electronics systems that we interact with being “aware” of who we are, where we are, and what we want, simply by monitoring and recognizing our presence (gestures), our moods (facial), and our voices. Imagine a world in which all of these electronic systems, from appliances to ATM’s to power tools, all speak the same universal “language” and that they all communicate wirelessly and integrate seamlessly.

Imagine clients controlling lights, temperature, audio, video and other systems in their homes without keypads, touchpanels, or any of the user interfaces that we can supply today because these products already offer this functionality out of the box. Imagine a world in which everything we as ESCs have offered to our clients for the past 20 years is completely, totally irrelevant and unneeded.


Microsoft definitely has delivered a “game changer” for our industry with its new “Kinect” technology.
Perspective #2: “Wow! What an amazing opportunity.”

Microsoft has just introduced its new “Kinect” gaming system with all kinds of groundbreaking technology that is sure to impact our industry. The new system features speech, facial, and gesture recognition, and based on its previous licensing deal with Ford, it seems likely that these technologies will find their way into other industries, including ours.

Imagine being able to install electronic systems for wealthy clients that are already able to discover and connect to each other using a single, universal and wireless “language.”


Kinect Joy Ride

Kinect Sports — Soccer

Imagine being able to configure the settings for amazingly intuitive self-populating user interfaces instead of trying to create custom programming and UIs to control a bunch of equipment that was never designed to work together.

Imagine being able to design and install a whole network of new sensors including dozens of tiny cameras and microphones around the home to enable the speech, facial, and gesture recognition these new systems will rely on.

Imagine designing, installing, and servicing a whole new class of wireless networks for homes that will now need to rely on access to a robust, redundant, and even 100-percent fail-safe connectivity.

Microsoft definitely has delivered a “game changer” for our industry with its new “Kinect” technology, and it will be interesting and exciting to watch as it evolves, creating opportunities for how we might leverage it in as yet unimagined ways.

The thing about technology is that it always has and always will be in a state of change. It is also highly probable that this change will occur at an ever-increasing pace. The question is not whether or not technological change will impact our industry, but how. The answer I suppose, all depends on how you choose to look at it.

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