Are touchscreen phones a thing of the past? That might be a crazy conclusion to jump to when smartphones are selling in such high numbers today, but the momentum for non-physical interaction in devices like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Kinect imply that Natural User Interfaces are the trend of tomorrow.
Speaking of Kinect and the future, rumor has it that Windows Phone could take advantage of the powerful motion sensing tech someday. VR-Zone’s ’reliable’ sources assert that Microsoft has boosted its internal research and development on a Kinect-like NUI for Windows Phone recently, which is now receiving more resources. The site clarifies that the project remains “purely a development effort” and no other evidence proves the technology would even ship with Windows Phone 8 or a later software update.
The main obstacle in the way of Kinect for Windows Phone becoming a reality is the hardware itself. The sensor for the Xbox 360 uses two optical cameras as well as an IR camera, all three of which would be tough to fit inside of a slim and flat phone. The IR sensor in particular is used in no-light situations but as of right now cannot be shruken down to a smartphone appropriate size. Regardless of the motion tech though, the sources also say Kinect could also become a Siri competitor powered by Microsoft’s TellMe service, which is already found in Windows Phone albeit with less impressive functionality. Certainly a clever way to leverage an existing and popular brand name, but if the sensors don’t act in a similar way as the Xbox 360 hardware it could be deceptive.
The article does raise a good point though: if Microsoft releases a version of Kinect for Windows Phone that required lighting it would still be a huge new feature. Microsoft owns the intellectual property behind Kinect so it would for all intents and purposes control the technology’s presence in smartphones. The only wrinkle in that plan we can think of is the challenge of licensing out the use of the technology and the potential for inconsistencies from different manufacturer implementations. We’ll let Microsoft Research sort that out — in the meantime, excuse us while we daydream of waving our hands at our phones.