Two of my favorite Microsoft Technologies – Surface & Kinect


One of the first technologies I was introduced to here at Uni Bremen was a Microsoft Surface Table. While it may not be such a futuristic technology, there is definitely a lot research in terms of applications currently being done that will make it a more widely used technology in the near future. One of my friends is working on some collaboration software for the Surface Table for his masters thesis and asked me to participate in some research he was doing. This particular table in the TZI lab is several years old and uses a projector and double-sided mirror. A multi-touch sensor grid is laid on top of the mirror and the table uses Microsoft’s latest Surface SDK running on Windows 7. The study I participated in required four people to work together to assemble puzzle pieces for four separate puzzles. While this may sound like a simple task, let me assure you that it can become rather complicated unless everyone works together.

I was quite intrigued by the whole experience and I’m contemplating making my own table when I return home to further experiment. While doing a little research of my own I found that multi-touch tables are relatively cheap and easy to build. Check out Hack a Day’s page for more info.

Surface Tables are being used in quite a few public venues these days including retails stores, universities, libraries, museums, restaurants, hotels and concert halls. They’re also being put to use in offices for a wide range of collaborative tasks including mapping, designing and organizing content.

Kinect for the PC
While the Kinect attached to the Xbox 360 has a been in the consumer market for about a year now, I’ve recently just got a taste of it’s possibilities when connected to a PC. While working on a small research project for Uni Bremen’s Artificial Intelligence group I’ve discovered a handful of apps for Windows 7 and even OS X and Linux that can control desktop applications such as web browsers, media players and even PowerPoint. Below is a brief list of the software titles I’ve found:

Based on what I’ve seen, I would have to agree with a recent article in the Wall Street Journal – “The Kinect has been Microsoft’s strongest argument against those who say it cannot innovate.”

Microsoft originally released their own SDK for Windows 7 under a non-commercial license agreement that forbid the sale of software based on the SDK, however several other SDKs including Open NI have been used to get around the roadblock and allow developers to make a few bucks off their brilliant use of the hardware. According to Chris Nuttall of the Financial Times, “Hundreds of commercial applications are under development” and Microsoft has said that they will sell a commercial version of the Kinect for Windows SDK to businesses early in 2012.

That’s not all, recently Microsoft announced that they would be officially rolling out Kinect for Windows soon and rumors have been floating around that a new device will be released in 2012 that is accurate enough to read lips. With all of these recent announcements, it appears that the folks across the water in Redmond will continue to do some amazing things with the Kinect hardware.

Several other large companies including Verizon have invested in developing software for the Kinect that will allow their customers to use gesture based controls. Verizon recently announced that FiOS customers can now signup for their Xbox LIVE service that allows full control of their TV using the Kinect.

While the following video is still gaming related, it is one of the coolest uses of the Kinect for Windows 7 I’ve seen so far.

As always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


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