Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently you’ll undoubtedly have seen the massive marketing push behind Microsoft’s latest offering, the Kinnect an add-on unit for its Xbox 360 console. The Kinnect combines (in a very small package) an infrared camera, a VGA camera, a microphone array, and a pan-tilt motor assembly for creating image stabilization. All this to allow your Xbox to respond to gestural input, voice commands, and ushering in the new era of user interfaces: the buzzword NUI or Natural User Interface.
So why don’t I have one? I’m broke for one (ha ha). But the idea of playing games using this format didn’t appeal to me– I owned a Nintendo Wii for 9 months before pitching it to my sister. She gets way more use out of it then I ever did, and I’m what you’d call a “hardcore” gamer. For $150 bones you can add this USB-device to your Xbox and impress your family and friends with its ability to surf your Netflix Watch Instantly queue using just the power of your arm muscles.
In the two weeks since its launch, a bounty was issued for an open-source compatible driver for the Kinnect. One appeared within days and the explosion of development we’ve seen since then is a bit nuts. I’m not entirely sure Microsoft cares how many units they sell that are attached to X360’s–I think they’ll continue to sell like hotcakes regardless of where they’re plugged in. Yesterday I spotted an online guide as an intro to USB hacking using the Kinnect as an example. It’s by far one of the nerdiest things I’ve seen online lately and it rubs two critical spots for me: teaching the masses, using brand-new shiny hardware for new and different things.
Be warned, the guide is not for the faint of heart but it goes into some critical detail for those of you who want to get your hands dirty.
Kinnect represent like all things Microsoft a veiled attempt to push their vision into your life. 15 years ago when Bill Gates was talking about WebTV (shudder) he wanted one in every living room. While WebTV died, a lot of living rooms contain a gaming console of some type.
The X360 with Microsoft’s mighty weight behind it is morphing from a game console to a living room media playback device, and now even more so. By taking the traditional user interface off of a gamepad and turning it into gesture recognition, Microsoft is showing folks the way forward. After all, isn’t this just pushing us closer to the Holodeck?