I'm on record as being a Microsoft fanboy. I have an iPhone and an iPad, but I gave back the MacBook Pro. I like Windows for business, which isn't really a popular position these days...
But the boys and girls at Redmond have given me something to be proud of. It's called the Kinect, and my boys got one for Christmas. Kinect is an add-on to the Xbox platform from Microsoft, featuring a 3-D camera that tracks body movements and games that take advantage of that ability.
As you might expect, there are Kinect sports games where you have to move, which are fun for those of us who are sports fans.
But the most striking thing I've learned from the Kinect is this: My boys can't dance. Not one lick. Kinect has a great game called Dance Central, where, much like Guitar Hero, you have to match the movements of the hip-hop dancers on the screen. It tracks how well you can keep up. My boys are struggling to get to the level where they can dance as well as Elaine from Seinfeld. It's hilarious to watch. And painful.
But the real promise to the Kinect isn't teaching suburban white kids to dance. It's the promise of Microsoft allowing open source movements to use the Kinect platform as a teaching device for anything that requires movement, and more to the point, muscle memory to master that movement. Need an example? How about robotic surgery? More from New Scientist:
"A group of students at the University of Washington are using a hack of Microsoft's Kinect controller to help give robotic surgeons a greater sense of touch when they are performing operations. It's like a giant, high-tech version of the classic 1980s game Operation, in fact.
While robot-assisted surgery is far from new, what robots lack is the ability to tell their human counterparts when they have grazed a vein or are scratching bones. The team have changed all that by hacking the Kinect and combined it with gaming force-feedback - or haptic - technology to create a 3D model of a human body which tells them when they might be too close to a vital organ.
The code written for the Kinect lets it react to incursions by the robotic surgeon's scalpel into restricted areas of the body and sends information back to the joystick used to control the robot, stopping it from moving.
The Kinect's relatively poor resolution would need upgrading for the hack to work in real operations. Still, the university team say that a piece of hardware to do the same job would normally have cost as much as $50,000. By contrast, the Kinect costs a scant $150, so it could be modified extensively to get it ready for surgery while remaining a comparative bargain."
In short, people are hacking the technology for all types of entertaining, as well as educational purposes. The potential of the Kinect platform is enormous, and Microsoft has already shown a willingness to back off the legal threats and allow people to hack a little bit to explore the possibilities, which is different from the stance of Microsoft in the past.
As the technology advances/improves and the applications come to market, odds are that your grandchildren will be able to go the batting cage without leaving the house. They'll also get 200 virtual surgeries under their belt in their medical career before they ever cut someone open for real.
But if they have no rhythm, the Kinect can't help them. Trust me when I tell you that...