First the mouse and windows in the 1980s, then touch and swipe with iPhone and soon gesture and voice will control your computer

Kinect controlling medicine (photo Microsoft)

Apple won the latest round of the computer interface war but Microsoft is fast on Apple’s heels with Kinect for Windows.  Kinect is a game changing technology.

As visualized in Minority Report, we won’t touch the mouse or screen but merely gesture with our bodies.

Screens will be large and translucent. We will be able to manipulate the date through gestures, and without the gloves Tom Cruise needed in Minority Report.

Windows announced in their blog last week that a Kinect for Windows 7 kit will ship early in 2012.

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“Building on the existing Kinect for Xbox 360 device, we have optimized certain hardware components and made firmware adjustments which better enable PC-centric scenarios. Coupled with the numerous upgrades and improvements our team is making to the Software Development Kit (SDK) and runtime, the new hardware delivers features and functionality that Windows developers and Microsoft customers have been asking for.” Microsoft

This follows the release this summer of a programmer’s SDK for Kinect. Microsoft was forced to release the SDK after people were cannibalizing Kinect Xbox 360’s to create robots and other cool devices.

Controlling Windows 7 with Kinect

More than 10 million people discovered the fun of playing games on Xbox 360 last year when Kinect was first released.

There are 18,000 videos on YouTube of people playing with Kinect. Many of them demonstrate innovative ways people are adapting Kinect’s ability to see your motions and react to voice commands.

When the Kinect beta was released last year, I knew instinctively Kinect was the interface we needed to moving computing beyond carpal tunnel syndrome of the mouse and keyboard.

Can you touch the screen?

Apple’s touch interface is great for hand held devices but will not work if your arms have to stretch out to a screen. Touching the screen is instantly tiresome.

iOS X fixed that to some extent with the Apple Magic Trackpad. However, it’s another piece of junk on your desk: move your hands to the keyboard, to the mouse, to the trackpad.

My audiologist has touchscreen computers. His wife in administration likes to use the touch screen sometimes. She has the screen within 12 inches of her face. He never uses the touchscreen it because the monitor is too far away.

Perhaps tablets will replace some desktops and laptops but there are not going to eliminate them. There is just not enough power in a tablet to match the best computers. Tablets are also very poor if you want to write, edit pictures, videos and music, or create any serious content.

The Kinect Effect

What could be coming with Kinect? Use your imagination.

Kinect for Windows

While the customizations of Kinect by creative users are interesting, it will take serious development work to make the product a consumer success on your desktop.

We don’t want to stand in the middle of the room like the Xbox Kinect. Computer monitors are generally arms length away from us.

“Near Mode” will enable a whole new class of “close up” applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360. This is one of the most requested features from the many developers and companies participating in our Kinect for Windows pilot program and folks commenting on our forums, and we’re pleased to deliver this, and more, at launch.” Microsoft

Microsoft is tweaking the product based on a year of customer and developer use. The company is also providing seed money to developers to help them get started developing applications for Kinect for Windows.


Here’s a fantastic 3D hologram setup using Kinect. While experimental, it shows how Kinect will be adapted in the future.

Related – Will Microsoft’s ‘Minority Report’ UI leap-frog Apple?