Three Technologies In Microsoft Kinect That Go Beyond Gaming

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Putting aside all the hype around the Kinect, which went on sale in the U.S. last week and hit stores in the U.K. today, here's a quick look at three core technologies in the system that have long-range implications for IT:

1. Motion Sensing Technology: The big selling point of Kinect is that it senses game-player movements and doesn't require that users wear sensors or hold a wand or other device the system can focus on.

While that's great for Kinectimals and other games, motion-sensing technology holds great promise in such areas as healthcare, education and security. Motion sensing could be built into rehabilitative care systems that help doctors treat patients who live in remote areas. Combined with voice and facial recognition technology, it could be used for biometric security applications and kiosks. And when added to virtual reality scenarios, motion sensing has lots of applications in everything from driving tests to product demonstrations and selling homes.

2. Voice Recognition Technology: A key aspect of Kinect is its ability to respond to spoken commands. While automated voice-response systems are already found in everything from automated customer call systems to the family car, the technology in Kinect takes voice-response to the next level. It's audio algorithms can recognize a voice even with lots of ambient noise and follow that voice as it move about.

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Microsoft has said it sees potential applications for the voice technology in cell phones, computers, and in specific areas such as healthcare and the military.

3. Machine Learning: While artificial intelligence has been around for a long time, the machine learning technology behind Kinect's motion sensing capabilities take AI to a new commercial level. The game system's ability to track people of different shapes and sizes and even distinguish one part of their body from another was developed in a research lab at Cambridge University in the U.K., according to a Wall Street Journal story.

Kinect's ability to match up images it "sees," such as tall or short people, with images stored within its catalog is ground-breaking. The Wall Street Journal story said a key element of the system is how it simplifies the amount of data it works with by looking at each pixel separately. The developers in the Cambridge lab are looking at other commercial applications for the technology.