Microsofts Kinect accessory for the Xbox gaming console sold eight million units in 60 days in a radical new approach to gaming, it uses a camera simply to read a users movements and insert them into a video game. You are the controller is the slogan, and, in short, the device allows people to take up bowling, tennis and much more, simply by standing in front of their TV screens. According to Craig Mundie, Microsofts Chief Research and Strategy Officer, the Kinect way of working offers a taste of how we will interact with computers. It is, he says, a natural user interface that, along with voice, will redefine the future of computers. Increasingly autonomous computers, Mundie suggests, will complete tasks that humans will think too mundane.
According to Mundie, however, the idea of gesture, touch and voice as a new, default way of controlling complicated machines is only a means to an end: For a long time, the computer has been used as a tool. We have been trying to work out how to make it more like a helper, so that it acts with a degree of autonomy, understands you, and starts to become intuitive. In the nearer future, however, is likely to see computers simply complete tasks autonomously, says Mundie. In the same way as when you have a team of people and you ask them to do a task, and then they complete it autonomously.
To make the most of this new vision, Mundie says well start to think of computers on a small, mobile scale, via laptops and PCs and then on a larger, room-size level. People will, he says, interact on the walls. We are already seeing this through things like telepresence. There will be screens that people carry around with them and unroll and use them on the wall. That may sound implausible. In fact, however, Mundie suggests that the technology were using will become increasingly inconspicuous, even though moving forward there will be more robust identity mechanisms to protect security. What weve been working on is how to map better what youre thinking to what the computer understands. Traditionally thats been by typing or clicking with a mouse but some people find that difficult. He compares the process of learning to play a video game with learning a musical instrument, and says that the natural user interface will eliminate some of that tedious process.
Softwares role is to make complicated things easier, he says. Sometimes in the process software itself gets more complex, but its a balance. The bulks of humanity wants simple, then humans evolve to the next level too. For some, the prospect of hidden computers on every surface may not be terribly enticing. But as Mundie puts it, Microsoft really did change the planet. And we are just getting warmed up. There is more opportunity for world changing things now than ever before.
I am a mobile application developer working through projects for MOCE Ltd UK and somocon Oy finland and acuezza Robertson Australia with wealthy of years mobile experience.i provide advice, feasibility studies and design/implement applications that add functionality to mobile devices in different platforms.