One hardware surprise that has come about for Microsoft is Kinect. This hardware is a motion sensing input device for the Xbox 360 video game console and Windows PCs. The Xbox 360 console operates around a webcam-style add-on peripheral. It functions by letting users interact and control the Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller; instead, control occurs through a natural user interface involving gestures and spoken commands.
Once the technology began to make a mark, startup companies saw an opportunity to develop their own hardware and software in order to enhance the Kinect experience.
Recently, Microsoft offered startups the opportunity to get seed money for their companies if they could demonstrate the ideas for new technologies for the Kinect system. Over 500 companies made applications. Microsoft reduced this to 11.
Jintronix is working to make physical rehabilitation more affordable. Using Kinect for Windows and a computer, to capture their movements, patients interact within a virtual environment. There they participate in activities meant to target specific deficiencies.
Kimetric uses Kinect to provide retailers with information about customers in a store. The system detects physical dimensions like age, gender, height, and size of a customer. It follows a customer through a store to see what products they engage in.
Zebcare uses Kinect for helping elders by alerting family or doctors about abnormal patterns of movement or lack of movement in a home. Following the elders around the home, Kinect can alert relatives about unusual behavior.
Manctl developed Skanect to capture a 3d model of an object. Skanect transforms the Kinect into a scanner that is able to create 3D meshes out of real scenes in a few minutes.
Ikkos For athletes, training is always important. And Ikkos uses Kinect to monitor and help improve athletic skills. To learn precise physical movements, the training technique uses theories of neuroplasticity. Ikkos is also working with the department of Veterans administration for the rehabilitation of veterans.
Styku helps consumers fit into their garments. They explained that clothing designers are still making clothes for the for ideal body shape; not very real. So the Styku system creates a detailed 3D model of the customer, which can then help with finding the best fitting clothes.
Ubi is actively engaged in turning every surface into a 3D multitouch screen. Using Kinect as the foundation, they have built non-touch screens and then added new features to present new ways of showing information.
NConnex is driven by the billions that is spent on household purchases every year in the US and the 30m people moving home. Their solution allows you to try furniture before you buy. So by working with a 3D model of your home, you can insert new furniture in virtually, change the color scheme, wallpaper, lighting and more. You can decide what to buy because you will know what it will look like on your home.
Voxon Is creating a new field of 3D movies or “Voxons’ with the first consumer volumetric 3D display. Kinect is providing the scanning motion with the results transferred to the volumetric device.
GestSure Was the first to use infrared depth-sensing cameras in the operating room environment to create gestural, touchless interfaces.
Freak’n Genius helps anyone animate instantly using the Kinect. You can animate characters and create your own scene just by moving your body.
Kinect as an Xbox add-on has come a long way. It is not just for gamers anymore. It has inspired many companies to pursue ways to develop touchless technology to make operations available to consumers, medical specialists, or businesses in new ways that was unheard of just a few years ago.
For Microsoft, this is a special surprise because they have spent so much time, effort, and research dollars into other products that have yet to pan out. This one did.