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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Kinect Tech Comes to Laptops

Kinect belongs to the world; the world belongs to Kinect.

  • January 31, 2012

The Daily’s Matt Hickey continues to mine what seems like a loose-lipped source at Microsoft, reporting that Kinect tech may be coming to laptops. (Hickey had previously reported on efforts to bring the Kinect motion sensor to televisions and to set-top boxes.)

On the one hand, the news is not entirely a surprise, given Microsoft’s CES announcement that it would integrate Kinect tech into desktop PCs soon. Steve Ballmer said that those devices might go on sale as early as February 1. (A collective squeal from hardcore desktop gamers surely ensued—followed by a rush to Amazon to preorder the thing, which costs $250.) And for Microsoft to do everything it can to feed its burgeoning beast—the Kinect was the fastest-selling consumer electronics device of all time, per Guiness—makes perfect sense. Indeed, it recently announced a “Kinect accelerator” to bring some of the most creative Kinect hackers into the fold, and released this nifty bit of YouTube promotion:

On the other hand, though, a Kinect-enabled laptop—The Daily says the prototypes it got its hands on “appear to be Asus netbooks running Windows 8”—raises a kind of cognitive dissonance. The image of the Kinect is one of sweeping, expansive movement—the wide gesture, the swing, the jumping jack. The image of a laptop—I should know—is of someone hunched over a screen that’s a little too small for comfort. The Kinect is about openness, expansiveness; the laptop is about contraction. What defines portability, after all, is size.

Perhaps it’s unlikely that people will use the Kinect for gaming on a laptop, then. But there are a host of other applications where a simple flick of the hand would do. A site called Electricpig has envisioned a few weird ones: augmented-reality shopping, for one; faster browsing enabled by eye-tracking, for another. As soon as your laptop can read you as well as you can read it, all sorts of applications we can’t even imagine yet may become possible.

One thing’s for sure: what Microsoft dubs the “Kinect effect” shows no signs of abating, and it seems that Redmond would prefer for consumers to see the Kinect as something that belongs with every screen, a technology as indispensable to your daily habits as your smartphone. I’ve written before that the Kinect belongs to the world; pretty soon, the world may belong to the Kinect.

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