Do you remember Minority Report? Do you remember the computers without keyboards or input devices? How John Anderton would swipe his hand across empty air to manipulate images and access information? Gesture-based computer interfaces. Identity-detecting cameras. A really good story idea from Philip K. Dick. The tech involved is no longer science-fiction, it's now built into a toy which rests in my living room.
Last night I had the most amazing experience with my children. I picked up Iz's big birthday present: a Kinect for our Xbox360. I plugged it in, pushed back all the furniture, loaded the first game and then sat back in amazement as my little girl learned to train a baby tiger with nothing but her hands and body movements. I watched my son play soccer without a ball or controller. I watched KK Monster *try* to learn some new dance moves. Then I asked if I could try, and I most certainly *did* learn some new dance moves. Then the darn thing played back a Real World video of my efforts - time compressed - and I laughed about as hard as I have in five years.
The Kinect not only senses, measures, and sees two players at once, but also takes pictures and video as your playing to show you after you complete each level in each game.
During the Adventure game, I kept swapping in different kids for each ride down a log flume, or zero-gravity bubble pop challenge - and each time, the little icon in the top right or left of the screen would flash for three seconds as it recognized a new participant and then it would switch the avatar to reflect the proper person. After a few hours it had learned who was who and could swap the players for us, without me having to do anything.
It's the most amazing piece of technology I've ever seen. The whole slender apparatus tilts to see as much of the players as possible. When you lie on the floor to teach the tiger to "play dead" it tilts down. When I step in to run hurdles, it tilts up.
The Kinect sensor contains an RGB camera and a depth sensor to track your movement. It measures the positioning of 48 key joints in your anatomy and by tracking the movements of these joints, it can work out exactly what position your body is in. What's more, it sees in 3D by overlaying the input from the RGB camera with the depth sensor. And it recognizes voice commands. Nothing like saying, "Sit!" in a stern voice and having a lion cub and my son sit down instantly.
We played from 4:30 to 9:30 barely even noticing the passage of time. I stuck some pizzas in the oven and sent them off to bed without doing any homework for the first time all year. It was that immersive.
If I can figure out how to download the short clip of me dancing I'll upload it here and then *you* can have the best laugh you've had in ages.