Microsoft is working on gesture-based computing, bringing the future depicted by the "Minority Report" closer to reality.
To help bring about this future, the software giant is banking on two technologies, Kinect for Windows and Perceptive Pixel's large touch displays. Both are powering attractions at the company's Envisioning Center in Redmond, Wash., a showcase of software and hardware innovations from Microsoft that provide a glimpse of how the company believes the near future of computing will look like for businesses and consumers.
Kinect for Windows, now in its second generation, is based on the sensor technology for Microsoft's Xbox video game consoles. Soon after the original Kinect was released in 2010, it gained popularity among hardware hackers and developers as a relatively low-cost way to gather and leverage real-world sensor data.
Now Microsoft is blending the technology with its massive touch screens from Perceptive Pixel (PPI), to enable new ways of interacting with data and collaborating with colleagues. Michael Mott, general manager of Xbox Apps and the Developer Ecosystem, said in a statement that Kinect and PPI bring "together the best of what's happening in natural user interfaces with the best of what's happening with large touch screens, and seeing if one plus one can't equal three for the end user."
Microsoft acquired Perceptive Pixel, maker of interactive displays that appear on news programming from networks such as CNN, in 2012. "PPI was a great launching pad, and there's nothing but NUI [natural user interface] goodness ahead as we take what we've learned with Kinect and start to sprinkle it across the company," added Mott.
According to Microsoft, NUI's "Holy Grail" includes the ability to use computers much like people interact with each other and the world around them, "using speech, gesture and touch, seamlessly and simultaneously." This "multimodal" way of harnessing computational resources is expected to lead to more intuitive, natural experiences.
At the Envisioning Center, visitors can experience the technology firsthand and see how voice, touch and gesture control come together to form new interactive experiences that don't require a keyboard or mouse. Moreover, the facility exemplified Microsoft approach to the technology market.
"You can't succeed anymore by going narrow and deep on only one piece," said Jeff Han, general manager of Perceptive Pixel, in a statement. "We have the best software, the best 3D sensor, the best large screen touch + pen technology, all connected together seamlessly by the cloud."
Han added that the venue embodies the themes of deep integration and seamless interoperability that anchor the new "One Microsoft" approach. "The Envisioning Center helps customers understand we're not just a company that sells individual widgets and software licenses."