John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Kinect Embodies Gates’s Goal of Peripherals With Vision

“In this 10-year time frame, I believe that we’ll not only be using the keyboard and the mouse to interact, but during that time we will have perfected speech recognition and speech output well enough that those will become a standard part of the interface….And with the digital cameras that we’re seeing on these machines, with the software behind them, at a minimum they’ll be able to recognize when a user is there, who the user is, what gestures they’re making, and have that be part of the interface.”

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, 1997

Bill Gates: Imagine a game machine where you’re just going to pick up the bat and swing it, or the tennis racket and swing it.

Walt Mossberg: We have one of those.

Kara Swisher: It’s called a Wii.

Bill Gates: No, that’s not it. You can’t pick up your tennis racket….That’s a 3-D positional device. This would be video recognition. This would be a camera seeing what’s going on.”

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, D5, 2007

Microsoft’s new Kinect motion control system has been squarely targeted at the gaming market, but the company has far greater plans for it: To bring to fruition a vision that Chairman Bill Gates has been talking about since early in the decade–a “disappearing computer” at the heart of the “digital home.”

By extending Kinect’s motion and voice control beyond gaming–to music, video and all manner of media content–Microsoft (MSFT) is positioning it as a new control paradigm for the digital living room, one in which facial recognition logs us in to Xbox Live, voice commands operate an Xbox-controlled home music system and a few simple gestures allow us to select and stream a movie from Netflix (NFLX) or watch a game on ESPN.

“With Kinect for Xbox 360, we’re making entertainment controller-free, simpler and more social than ever before,” Marc Whitten, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Xbox Live explained during the Kinect launch event Monday. “Imagine a world where you can watch a movie without a remote, play a game without a controller, all in the comfort of your living room.”

Gates was imagining just that more than a decade ago, and now it seems his digital living room is finally here. The question now is: Where does Microsoft go next? If the company is able to establish the Xbox 360 as a central hub for home entertainment, will it set out on a more ambitious path? To bring the smart home into the mainstream with more accessible, intuitive home automation?

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