Microsoft's Project Natal may be coming to the PC. The gesture and video recognition tech was developed by Redmond's research division and demoed on the Xbox 360 at this year's E3 expo as a control scheme for games. According to a CNet interview with Bill Gates, Microsoft's Windows unit is looking at how Natal can be used with PCs in both home and office environments.
Using your body to control devices makes a lot of sense, Gates said. "I think the value is as great for if you're in the home, as you want to manage your movies, music, home system type stuff, it's very cool there," he said. "And I think there's incredible value as we use that in the office connected to a Windows PC. So Microsoft research and the product groups have a lot going on there, because you can use the cost reduction that will take place over the years to say, why shouldn't that be in most office environments."
The prospect of controlling a PC with physical gestures is indeed cool, but I'm not sure where the value and cost reductions Gates talks about come into play. Perhaps he thinks we'll enjoy gesticulating so much that we'll simply stop spending money on keyboards, mice, and home theater PC remotes.
While Natal's usefulness as a media center control scheme or Office interface seems dubious, it could bring an interesting motion control element to games. Years ago, John Carmack talked about using webcams to track gamer head movements. Perhaps, eventually, Natal will make good use of the fact that I tend to physically lean from side to side in an attempt to dodge in-game gunfire in first-person shooters.
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