Xbox Project Natal is now called Kinect and looks amazing

Microsoft's gesture-based computing interface is cool, does it have wider uses than just games?

Microsoft last night announced the commercial name for Project Natal: Kinect. It demonstrated the gesture-based interface during the opening night of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. Kinect allows users to control an Xbox video game without a controller. Jump around and your onscreen avatar jumps with you.

Kinect for Xbox 360 will be available in North America in November, in time for the holiday season. Better still, Kinect will work with existing Xbox 360 consoles, Microsoft promises. (However, Microsoft also demonstrated a new Xbox 360 console last night. It will include an Xbox 360 wireless controller, Xbox 360 headset, HDMI output, USB flash drive storage capabilities and more, available this week and priced at $300. ... I already have a Wii, but I am mightily tempted to buy the 360 with Kinect, too.)

Microsoft said it will link Kinect with Zune Pass music, so users can control the music streaming over Xbox Live with voice and gesture commands. It also plans to link Video Kenect via Xbox Live to Windows Live Messenger. The goal of that is to make video chat more interactive than it is today.

Last night's demonstration made Kinect look amazing! Look at the voice and gesture controls that can be used during movies. Never search for the remote again.

All that said, it is also true that while Microsoft has lots of great ideas, it's a hold-your-breath game on how well it executes. Will Kinect really work as easily as advertised? I hope so, as this has the capacity of making Microsoft "uber cool" to a whole set of video game lovers.

It would be interesting to see if any of this technology found its way into enterprise products such as the chat/conferencing features in Office Communication Server. Or, could it be used to make Office Apps easier to use for people with disabilities? Beyond that, is gesture control the future of all personal computing? Will typing one day go the way of a green-screen terminal with our office environment looking like the lab in Iron Man 2? That would be cool, too.

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