There I was, with my beautiful long, blonde hair cascading down, my short pink dress moving in the wind, my thick, full lips done up in a burgundy red, eyes smouldering with a fiery eyeshadow and my lithe body gyrating to each beat of the remix of Material Girl. The circle turned blue, I moved from the street to the nightclub, a quick twirl, a two step side, three pelvic thrusts and the trophy was mine. Damn, I am awesome!
And with that I completed my first ‘hands on’ with the all-new Microsoft Kinect system. The first demo was a dance game and the song selected made sure that my on-screen avatar was a perky young girl and everything I did, every move, every gesture, every little twitch, was perfectly translated onto my on-screen transformation, dressed in pink spandex and tights. No buttons, no joystick, no pad, no triggers – my whole pulsing, gyrating body was now a game controller.
This is the all new motion control battle that commences between Microsoft Kinect and Sony Playstation 3 Move. Each has refined and perfected this technology into an all new tech art form and each has taken a completely different path. Microsoft Kinect is an add-on accessory to the Xbox 360 gaming system and consists of a colour camera, an infrared projector, CMOS sensor and multi-array microphone. Away from the jargony tech specs, in essence, this device is capable of mapping 48 points on your body and whatever you do with those 48 points translates to action on screen.
My first experience was a feeling of pure awe – the Kinect body sensing technology is pretty spectacular – it’s just you and the game. Then reality sets in! It’s good for large gestures, good for certain actions but there is a lag between your movement and its translation on screen – and the games were all quite simplistic and basic. Somehow, this should and could have been much more – and in the future, it will.
The PlayStation 3 Move is more of what you expect. It has a bulbous glowing sphere on the top which acts as an active marker. The system also has other sensors inside, which combined with the LED glowing sphere, provides incredibly accurate and highly precise motion control. The likes that blow the Nintendo Wii out of the water. Full 3D movement, no lag or delay, in fact everything I did – a flick, a pivot, a movement of the hand, a twist – was immediately translated on screen. The games were involving and the look and feel was very refined. But I still needed to hold a controller in my hand.
The purpose of this comparison isn’t to start the next war between these two consoles. The two companies will do a great job of that anyway in the next few days. These two all-new motion sensing technologies are a great pointer to the fact that we are now entering a new, highly futuristic dimension. One that may start from the game and console world but will eventually affect every aspect of our lives. Think Tom Cruise in Minority Report and then multiply by a hundred. Think Total Recall and Blade Runner and treat those as just basic starting points.
Think virtual multi-screens around you, gesture-based computer interfaces and full motion inputs of voice and body – where you can pull up documents, zoom in on a photo, resize a map, clip a video just by gesturing and pointing. A world where you’ll be able to initiate a video conference and share a project or a document with that person purely by dragging it onto the same screen. A place where you can hold up a document or a photo and have it immediately become digitised and part of your screen in a split second. And all of this without smearing your fingerprints onto any of the screens surrounding you.
It’s always great to dream of the future and let your imagination run wild. The good part – all that I’ve described isn’t a wildly concocted pipe dream. It’s real and it’s happening right now. While some of it is at prototype stage, it is technology that is ready for prime time and will be out soon. In fact, many Fortune 500 companies already use various aspects of it. All we need to do is use the time between well, maybe to buff up our bodies a little, as it seems that the time of pushing around just a mouse is over.
In the meanwhile I’m going back to my dance moves and moving on to the next level. I need to get my pivot and standing toe jump just right. Also, I wonder if there’s a neon green shorter version of that pink dress. Now that would be awesome to wear in the finals of the Dance Dance championship!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3.0.
Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni.