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Reach back in your memory banks to early 2009.  Do you remember what was going on in the realm of technology and innovation at that time?  Well – Microsoft was eager to show the world that Nintendo wasn’t the only company that could bring advanced motion-sensitive controllers to the video game world.  Dubbed Project Natal, Microsoft stunned the world with the announcement of its own motion control technology in June of 2009. Project Natal – better known as “Kinect” would allow a gamer to control nearly anything on their Xbox consoles without ever touching a controller.  It was a sophisticated combination of cameras, microphones, and programming which effectively turned your body into the controller.  The implications were enormous and the stakes were high.  Gamers around the world held their breath while game developers explored and integrated this new technology into the next generation of gesture enabled games. Fast forward a year to 2010 and the Kinect for Xbox 360 was officially unveiled with the tag line “You are the controller”.  Since then we’ve seen the introduction of the next generation Xbox console (Xbox One) in late 2013 and with it a newer, faster, stronger Kinect.Microsoft Kinect 2In the years since its introduction, the Kinect has been used for much more than simply enhancing video game interactions.  Microsoft released Kinect for Windows in early 2011 and opened the door to a new wave of Kinect enabled experiences.  Developers around the world were inspired to create applications that just a decade ago would have been nothing short of magic to most outside of the tech industry.  I’d like to share a few real world examples of Kinect implementations that help to illustrate the value of this exciting technology today and explore where we might be headed in the months ahead.Surgeons interacting with a CT Scan or MRI      In today’s operating room MRIs and CT Scans are some of the most important resources at a surgeon’s disposal.  Unfortunately for surgeons and patients alike, interacting with those resources during surgery can quickly become costly and time consuming as the surgeon is forced to scrub out and back in every time he wishes to consult one of these images.  Enter GestSure – an Ontario based company that has created an elegant and incredibly useful solution.  Enabled by the power of Kinect, GestSure allows a surgeon to interact with and manipulate this imagery via simple hand gestures (hence the name).  According to the companies’ web site, “From their operating table position, the surgeon employs a simple set of gestural commands that allows them to do anything they would with a conventional mouse.”  This saves valuable time for a surgeon while the patient is under anesthesia.Surgeons Operating a Security CameraThe border between North and South Korea isn’t exactly Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  South Korean officials know this and have recently enlisted an army of Kinect cameras to make sure nothing gets across the border illegally.  The system was developed by Korean programmer Jae Kwon Ko and is smart enough to decipher between animals and humans.  It is supposedly in the process of being upgraded to track biological heat signatures and heart rate as well.  Who would have thought that video games and national defense would be used in the same sentence?Military guarding bridge Virtual Fitting RoomsIf you’re in the market for a new wardrobe Kinect can help you find the perfect outfits.  A product called Fitnect is leveraging the power of Kinect to turn Average Joe department store shopper into a bonafide clothing model.  This tool makes the act of bringing your clothes into a dressing room obsolete.  Yes – you still need to wear pants in the store.  The concept is simple…stand in front of a display, use your hands to select various items of clothing, and watch as the application magically puts them on you to model for yourself.  Granted it won’t help you decide whether those jeans will be way too tight after the holiday season but it can certainly assist in making sure you never end up buying that fuchsia sport coat you’ve been eying. Robots in SpaceWhat do you get when you put the brilliant minds at NASA in the same room as a Kinect and Oculus?  You get a robotic arm controlled by gestures of course.  NASA has recently combined the Kinect and an Oculus Rift (a head mounted 3D VR display) to allow a live operator to remotely control a robotic arm in real time.  The robot precisely mirrors the movements and gestures of the operator’s arm in real time, allowing him to interact with objects in an environment he’s not physically in (think Bruce Willis in Surrogates).  The experience is made significantly more immersive with the integration of Oculus Rift which enables the operator to see exactly what the robot is seeing in first person…as if he were really there.480px STS-3 Canadarm captures NASA ShoppingDoes anyone really enjoy shopping for a new car?  Of course there’s the excitement of test driving your potential purchase…but then comes the hard sell.  What if the dealership doesn’t have the accessories or trim levels you’re looking for in stock?  Sure – they can probably show you you’re car, but maybe you want to see it with a different interior fabric, color, stereo system, or sun-roof.  Wouldn’t it be neat if you could customize your potential ride to your heart’s content in real time?  Mixing and matching various options until you find something that really resonates with you.  Guess what…you can do it with Kinect! There are a handful of applications that allow a prospective buyer to explore and customize a vehicle using intuitive hand gestures. Some have taken the concept even further by integrating full body tracking…allowing a viewer to zoom by walking towards the screen and altering viewing angle by tilting one’s head.  One of my favorite implementations is a variation of an existing service provided by Volvo which they’ve dubbed the “Car Configurator”.  This particular solution has integrated Kinect to allow a viewer to interact with the vehicle on screen much the same as they would in a desktop environment with a mouse and keyboard.  The user is able to rotate the vehicle, zoom in/out, explore the interior, change colors, features and more all with simple gestures. Beyond…From its roots as a humble video game accessory to its current implementations in fields spanning healthcare, transportation, retail, security and many others, Microsoft’s Kinect has become a vital tool for forward thinking developers and innovative experience architects around the world.  With the introduction of Kinect V2, Microsoft has furthered its goal of bringing engaging gesture based experiences to the masses.  By all accounts Kinect seems to be living up to the motto “You are the controller”.