Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kinecting with the Consumer

Microsoft’s Kinect is getting some airtime, and I’m all for it. Kinect is a controller-free gaming device that works by understanding the 3D space in front of it. It sees and follows body movements, recognizes faces and voices. Talk about mysterious, sensuous, and intimate.

Adding to the fun, Microsoft has welcomed well-intentioned hacking of the Kinect so that it can be used with a PC rather than just with the Xbox 360 gaming console as it intended. True to form they were guarded at first about endorsing this kind of tinkering, but it was inevitable and they've done the right thing by embracing it.

Already people are doing things with the Kinect that its designers may never have dreamed of. The New York Times picks up on a few of the best, including a guy who has used the Kinect to create a holographic image of his study (1.3 million hits on YouTube). Others have put together a virtual puppet show, 3D doodles that can be grabbed and rotated, and a robot that can be directed around the room at a wave of your hand. Thumbs up to this guy, who has used the Kinect to turn a broomstick into a light saber.

This is the Participation Economy at full throttle. While creative consumers the world over surprise and inspire us, the upside for Microsoft will be a greater appreciation of the true innovation that the Kinect represents, and the ability to apply the best ideas to future Xbox 360 applications. Everybody wins.