The Kinect revolution
Blog posts, news, sites dedicated to hacks, official ads with beautiful happy people getting their lives enhanced (somehow) . Many of you still wonder: what is a Kinect, actually, and why is there so much fuzz about it? Why are the press and geek gurus claiming this black Wall-E-head-shaped camera as one big step into the future? (ain’t it a gaming-thingy, after all?)
Well, to anyone familiar to robotics, computer vision, or video recognition algorithms, the revolution is rather clear. I will try to explain it for the other 99.9% of the population who are not even remotely related to those areas.
Microsoft Kinect, among other things, is a normal camera plus a depth camera. This means that additionally to the normal video, you get information on the distance for each pixel the video contains. For example, take a picture of your grandma having a cup of tea, and you will know that tip of her ear is at 12 feet from the camera but the wall right next to it is at 20. This seemingly “obvious” piece of information, rather intuitive for humans (the wall is not a part of grandma, and it is behind her), is a hell of a problem for even the most sofisticated software and computers on standard tecnology, like a digital camera. This new depth information allows computers to “know” without much effort something similar to a real-time 3D reconstruction of the picture. They now can determine where her teacup starts and ends, it’s shape, it’s size, what is the table’s orientation, how to separate grandma from the picture behind her and if she is pointing her finger at the milk or the sugar spoon…
This “small” enhancement in perception opens a vast world of possibilities for computer software. Machines are now one huge step forward in understanding what we are doing, and acting accordingly. This is useful from recongnizing your gestures and aplying them to Minority-report-styled interfaces, imitating your hand in a robotic arm five thousand miles away, helping post-operational patients with their physical terapy, or even recognizing user actions in a store for a more interactive and “humanized” shopper experience. These things combined with the fact that you can get one of these devices much cheaper than a smartphone, brings the final explosive ingredient: this is a revolutionary and massively affordable technology.
When we techies saw this more than a year ago, we where thrilled. Shopperception is the first fruit of that excitement, bringing new insights in order to understand, measure and improve the shopper’s experience worldwide.
The possibilities of this amazing Kinect technology have just started, and they will literally change your life during the next years. Just wait and see. Think of all the things your “things” (TV, computer, microwave oven, bedroom?) could do if they understood you better. Remember that old “house of tomorrow” futuristic cartoon? That would just be the tip of the iceberg… The Kinect Revolution has started. We say you should be thrilled too.