Too bad the Kinect failed

I had lots of interesting conversations after my talk at the recent conference in Vienna, but one in particular sticks to mind. I was talking to an indie game developer who’s using the Kinect for a project on his college, who remarked:

Yeah, the Kinect is great. Too bad it failed

It’s an interesting sentiment because it’s a gamer or game-development one. On the home, as a game controller, the Kinect was definitely a failure. That is no surprise: I’m on the record as saying that game controlling and avateering are perhaps the two tasks that the Kinect is worst at (even though they are two tasks for which it keeps being pushed).

But there are all the areas where Kinect succeeds that have nothing to do with game development.

A team I met in Berlin are doing healthcare applications with it. One, in particular, helped with physical rehabilitation. Using Kinect, they can ensure that someone who is undergoing rehabilitation after a stroke or an accident is executing the prescribed exercises correctly, without the intervention of a physician or nurse. Another team was using it for posture detection, helping users reduce the risk of injury during strenuous exercises. The list goes on, not only on the medical side, but into art, analytics and many other areas.

Considering how many areas the Kinect is used at, it might seem a little silly that it got pushed mainly as a game controller. There the device’s constraints (including the need to deal with input ambiguity) become pitfalls. Then again, perhaps we should all be glad that someone managed to sell the idea inside Microsoft that they could ship a few million of those along with the Xbox. Otherwise who knows if we’d have such an amazing piece of hardware, available off the shell, for less than the cost of a couple of new games.

What will happen with Kinect? I expect that the device, or its successor, will fade into the background. Not disappear, mind you. Instead it will become pervasive as an input mechanism for applications where a user does not even think of a controller being involved.

More on that soon.


Ricardo J. Méndez