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Analysis

Microsoft Kinect for Windows

Posted on 9 Nov 2012 at 11:07

The innovation engine

Right now, the focus is on innovation. In April, Microsoft took 11 start-up developers through a three-month Kinect Accelerator programme, culminating in a Demo Day where they could show off their work to investors and the media. They represent a fraction of the hundreds of companies, from corporations such as Boeing to boutique interior designers, that are harnessing Kinect to power their applications. Some run on standard Windows 7 or 8, and others on the device-focused Windows Embedded.

As a result, we’re seeing a range of eye-opening applications. Ubi Interactive’s software, for example, can transform any flat surface into a touchscreen, while Manctl has created Skanect, which produces 3D models of rooms from multiple passes of a Kinect sensor. NConnex similarly uses the Kinect’s tracking ability in its 3D-modelling software, which enables users to scan a room and rearrange the virtual furniture. Toronto-based GestSure Technologies, meanwhile, is using Kinect to give surgeons in operating theatres hands-free access to medical applications. But perhaps the star app comes courtesy of Jintronix, which won the $50,000 top prize at the International Startup Festival in Montreal, for an application that makes physical rehabilitation for stroke patients more engaging.

GestSure

These are disruptive applications for a disruptive technology. NConnex’s co-founder, Shichao Ou, sums Kinect up as “a complete game changer for human-computer interaction”, with the company using the sensor as a 3D-scanning device that’s “a hundred times cheaper than established methods”. Zatloukal describes how the work involved in Manctl’s Skanect “used to require tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, but now just requires a Kinect, a computer and the software”.

Meanwhile, Ubi Interactive’s software could make waves in education and corporate presentation, outperforming conventional interactive whiteboards and projectors at a fraction of the cost. “When we started working on our current idea, Kinect wasn’t on the market yet, so we were using expensive camera modules and ended up creating our own hardware,” says co-founder Anup Chathoth.

“This created two issues for us. It was extremely distracting for us to dabble with the nitty-gritty of the hardware, when our R&D efforts could have been spent doing what we do best: developing awesome software. Also, as a start-up, it’s extremely difficult to manage the design, production and distribution of the hardware. Kinect solved both these problems for us in one go.”

Ubi Interactive

For Microsoft, Kinect provides a means with which to expand the scope of Windows. “I think it expands where we interact with our computers, from the kitchen – we already have the living room – to retail environments and so on,” says Zatloukal. “Everywhere we interact with technology, and we can do it in a more natural way – we can build it with Kinect.”

Kinect on the desktop

This, it turns out, means the desktop too. Zatloukal talks of how “the ability for our computers to see and hear us” extends to our existing PCs. “You and I probably use our mouse and keyboard, and certainly no-one is taking away my mouse and keyboard – I love interacting with my computer that way.

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User comments

"it enables our computers to see and hear what we do or say"

Great for venting one's spleen at temperamental kit.

By Alfresco on 12 Nov 2012

Please! fix the print button

By eco_bach on 19 Dec 2012

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For more details about purchasing this feature and/or images for editorial usage, please contact Jasmine Samra on pictures@dennis.co.uk

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