How Microsoft Kinect changed technology

By John D. Sutter, CNN

When Microsoft Kinect -- the Xbox gaming camera that reads your body motions -- came onto the scene about a year ago, there were plenty of signs that body gestures were going to start controlling technological gizmos of all sorts.
After all, the Wii, which debuted in 2006, popularized the idea that technology should be able to sense what your body is doing -- without pushing a button. And, if nothing else, the movie "Minority Report" (and the real-world researcher, John Underkoffler, who made that possible) showed us that we'd soon be able to control computers and TVs with the wave of a hand.
In the year since Kinect, sci-fi versions of this no-remote reality have started to become real. Technologists are attaching motion-sensing cameras to all kinds of things -- using them to control consumer electronics and contribute to scientific research. And they're tapping into old-school cameras, too, turning simple gadgets like smartphones into body reading machines.
    Multitouch, voice search, gestures. Those are now some of the most potent points of intersection between human will and computational power. Could this new stage of interface change the world as much as the transition from the Command Line to the GUI did? It may very well.
    MIT Technology Review says gesture interfaces, in the wake of Wii and Kinect, are going mainstream:
    The first demonstrations of what gestural interfaces could offer beyond gaming came from enterprising hackers who did things like using a Wii controller to steer a Roomba robotic vacuum, and academic researchers like those those in Microsoft's labs who adapted the Kinect to do things such as creating a 3-D model of a user's whole body. Analyst firm Markets & Markets estimates that the market for the hardware and software components needed to enable gesture recognition in products such as the Kinect was worth $200 million in 2010 and will be worth $625 million by 2015.
    Take a look at this promo video from Microsoft, which shows all kinds of potential uses for the technology -- from playing a virtual violin to teaching a class about DNA. It's promotional, obviously, but still pretty fascinating:
    Plenty of stuff kind of like that is already happening in the real world. Take this example of music mixing -- enhanced by a motion-sensor:
    Games are being rebuilt around this idea, too. Here's a Kinect hack of Tetris, where a gentleman controls the pieces by waving his hands and moving his head. Maybe this isn't the most elegant way to play the classic Nintendo game, but it's one of many examples of how hackers are taking Kinect's motion-capture tech and doing whatever they like with it:
    Another Kinect hack uses Microsoft's motion-sensing camera to help a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner "see" the space it's cleaning:
    Finally, plenty of spin-off companies are capitalizing on the idea of gesture-controlled technology.
    Here's a company that is trying to make this idea work on tablets and phones:
    And, from LG, one that's taking the idea of a gesture-commanded home entertainment center to a slightly different place -- with a remote control you can use to wave your way from one screen to the next: