While Sony may be talking about how the PlayStation Eye can already do a lot of what is slated for Project Natal, Bill Gates has been talking about other uses for the technology. In an interview with CNET the former Microsoft CEO, world’s richest man and releaser of mosquitoes talked about some of the technology that Microsoft was working on, in particular the Natal camera. When discussing Natal he mentioned the possibility for applications outside of gaming, and the possibility of connecting the hardware to other platforms such as Windows PCs.
Speaking about all of the technology Microsoft has cooking in its labs, Gates said: “I’d say a cool example of that, that you’ll see… in a little over a year, is this (depth) camera thing.” Gates said it was not just for games, “but for media consumption as a whole, and even if they connect it up to Windows PCs for interacting in terms of meetings, and collaboration, and communication.”
Gates said it is an example where the project started in Microsoft research but is now being commercialized by both the Xbox and Windows units. “Both the Xbox guys and the Windows guys latched onto that and now even since they latched onto it the idea of how it can be used in the office is getting much more concrete, and is pretty exciting.”
I can see a lot of potential in the office arena. While it may seem a little silly at first to imagine business men and women doing the kind of actions that were shown at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, it is all dependent on Natal’s ability to pick up subtle movements and its degree of accuracy. For a start it could add a whole new level of control and manipulation to CAD software, add new layers of interactivity to video conferencing software, and finally the possibilities for interactive whiteboards could be great. A whiteboard that works in the same way as a multi-touch screen would be a truly impressive use of the camera technology, assuming that it worked with any level of accuracy.
Of course away from my wild fantasies and back in the real world I more realistically expect Microsoft to produce Natal drivers for Windows PCs simply for use with Games for Windows ports of Xbox 360 titles which use the motion controller. If we’re lucky we might even get some of the Minority Report style controls that were demoed at E3 on our PC. But as for implementations within office software? I can see it being a while yet.