Microsoft May Add Kinetic Motion Control to PCs and Tablets

Last Updated Aug 5, 2010 7:12 PM EDT

Microsoft (MSFT) has received critical acclaim for its Xbox Kinect motion control, as my BNET colleague Damon Brown has noted. A camera watches players' movements and directs game activity accordingly. Very cool -- and it may be destined for broader use than gaming consoles, according to a patent application made public today.

Patent application 20100199228 is titled Gesture Keyboarding and covers using a camera to capture a pose or pre-defined gesture and then interpreting the physical movement as commands.

Seems like a patent for Microsoft Kinect, clearly. However, as the patent makes clear in the background section, this isn't restricted to a gaming console:

Many computing applications such as computer games, multimedia applications, office applications or the like use controls to allow users to manipulate game characters or other aspects of an application. Typically such controls are input using, for example, controllers, remotes, keyboards, mice, or the like. Unfortunately, such controls can be difficult to learn, thus creating a barrier between a user and such games and applications. Furthermore, such controls may be different than actual game actions or other application actions for which the controls are used. For example, a game control that causes a game character to swing a baseball bat may not correspond to an actual motion of swinging the baseball bat.
Now remove the game references and think about Apple (AAPL) iOS. It's all gesture based computing, only with a touch screen detecting the movement. In addition, a touch screen can do little with a static pose -- whether of an entire body or a hand.

What if you took a tablet or smartphone with a front-facing camera and added this type of gesture? Instead of streaking fingerprints over a screen, you could have the camera observing gestures and behaving appropriately. No need to limit the interface to games. You could have ebooks flip pages, a word processor save writing, a spreadsheet auto-calculate the sum of a column of figures, an email program browse through folders for an attachment, or a video player pause its operation.

It could be a major innovation in user interfaces -- not touch, not voice, not handwriting, not mouse, not keyboard. Combine it with Microsoft's patent on a device that could learn a user's gestures, and you get a powerful new approach to computing.

Related:

Kinect image: Microsoft. Spreadsheet and photo editing: Erik Sherman.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.