Windows 8 prototype may be among the first to incorporate hands-free control technology originally developed for Xbox 360.
Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop
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Microsoft is working with hardware manufacturers to bring its groundbreaking Kinect motion control technology, currently an Xbox exclusive, to PCs and laptops, according to reports that indicate Taiwanese computer maker Asus is one of the OEMs initially involved with the project.
Asus has developed a prototype Windows 8 notebook computer that has Kinect sensors incorporated into the top of the display where the Web cam would normally be, The Daily and other tech blogs reported. Microsoft and Asus have not confirmed the report, but Microsoft in the past has said publicly that it plans to port Kinect to Windows and has made a software kit publicly available to developers.
Microsoft sees applications for Kinect, which contains an array of sensors that translates users' physical gestures and speech into onscreen actions, in vertical industries such as healthcare, education, and high-tech manufacturing.
A pilot program at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, U.K., shows how Kinect can potentially help individuals who have suffered strokes or other traumas that have left them with impaired mobility. Patients in the hospital's neurological rehabilitation unit are using Kinect software that requires them to react to onscreen events and commands. The hospital says the exercises are helping them to regain mobility, coordination, and balance.
In another non-gaming application, healthcare tech specialist Tedesys, of Cantabria, Spain, is developing a Kinect-based platform that's meant to allow physicians to operate on patients through remotely controlled instruments--an application that could save lives in disaster areas, battlefields, and other situations that may be physically inaccessible or where it would be too dangerous to send in doctors.
Some analysts believe Kinect could also play a role in day-to-day office computing, if Microsoft and its partners can establish standards at the API level for gestures to control the desktop. "People like Microsoft are going to have to lead," said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "There needs to be standards that say that if you swipe left, you get the Control Panel, or if you swipe right, you get the Task Bar, and so on."
Hilwa is confident that gesture-based computing "is here to stay," and warns that it could put further pressure on internal corporate software development organizations, many of which are already strained by the need to roll out mobile versions of enterprise apps. "At some point they are going to have to accommodate for this," said Hilwa.
To drive commercial development, Microsoft has released a toolkit that helps developers build Kinect awareness into Windows applications. The Kinect for Windows SDK gives software developers the ability to create apps that leverage Kinect's most advanced capabilities, including sound localization, depth and distance interpretation, skeletal tracking, and advanced audio processing.
Microsoft launched Kinect on Oct. 31, 2010 and sold 10 million units in the first six months--the fastest bolt from the gate of any tech gadget, according to Guinness World Records.
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