Get Ready For Kinect To Completely Change Our Lives

I'm in the business of identifying when there's a change in the wind coming that will push us in a new direction. On balance, I've been successful. So much so, that when something I staked my career on becomes commonplace, people are so used to it that they look back and think I was only pointing out the obvious. Like when the most senior faculty member in the advertising department at Syracuse University rejected the "Interactive Advertising" course I proposed to teach in 1996 because online advertising was "just a fad." I took a stand and got to teach the class, over his objections. Fast forward to today and online advertising is so obvious that predicting it is a thankless task.

I say this because I am about to take a stand I want you to remember. Ready? Starting November 4th, Kinect for Xbox 360 will usher us into a new era Forrester has entitled the Era of Experience. This is an era in which we will revolutionize the digital home and everything that goes along with it: TV, internet, interactivity, apps, communication. It will affect just about everything you do in your home. Yes, that, too.

I've just completed a very in-depth report for Forrester that explains in detail why Kinect represents the shape of things to come. I show that Kinect is to multitouch user interfaces what the mouse was to DOS. It is a transformative change in the user experience, the interposition of a new and dramatically natural way to interact -- not just with TV, not just with computers -- but with every machine that we will conceive of in the future. This permits us entry to the Era of Experience, the next phase of human economic development.

In this era, companies can no longer succeed by simply building a great product or distributing it efficiently because competitors can do the same. Instead, it is the compelling nature of the total product experience that will create value for consumers. To truly compel, these experiences have to engage your mind, your body, and your sense of self. Like Avatar 3D, only every day. Kinect can do that like nothing before it. This $150 peripheral for the Xbox 360 can see you in 3D, map your motions, and interact with you in completely natural ways. Kinect can recognize your face and your voice, knowing you in a way that science fiction authors have long imagined. It will make gameplay more interesting, certainly, but if it stops there, a revolution will be stillborn. It must ultimately go far beyond gaming. I describe many examples of this in my report, but let me just summarize how we get to a future where no product category or service can escape this change.

  • First, it goes beyond the Xbox. The Xbox will be the first product to alter our world, but it won't be the only device involved. Every other product strategist will catch on quickly, understanding that if they don't offer this type of user interface their product will become an Xbox peripheral. Expect Google TV to develop its own motion-aware system for the TVs in its fold, Nintendo must do the same or lose its newfound foothold in the home. Apple will steer clear for now because, well, they didn't invent it. (And this is perhaps the first major innovation in user experience not invented by Apple -- does Microsoft realize what it has done?)
  • Second, it becomes wedded to an array of interconnected devices. Apple TV is an iPad peripheral and Google TV already speaks to mobile phones, but Kinect is a system that will be 10X more interesting to connect to other devices in the home. Microsoft can (and should) lead here by developing iOS and Android apps that interact with Kinect, but it's not clear Microsoft understands that Kinect isn't just a game controller, it's a TV operating system. If it catches on to that -- and builds on it -- it could beat Apple and Google in the coming TV OS wars.
  • Third, developers will go nuts for this. I've been demonstration 3D sensing technology to marketers and developers for several months now and each time we get through the demo, people gasp because they quickly see how this will overhaul their businesses. Retailers see how it will be the first virtual store technology that really moves people; financial service firms see how it will become a kind of window through which their customers will look to them to graphically render the consequences of their investment decisions; and advertisers see infinite ways they can not only sponsor these experiences but create marketing experiences that are as engaging as the games and movies that people otherwise consume in the living room. It is the power of these developers, first summoned by Apple, that will – once they put their hands on Kinect and all its spawn – create the future I am predicting here.

I can't persuade you in a single blog post, even in an entire report. But I have to start spreading the word. Because I want credit? No, I accept that in 10 years, when 70% of homes have this kind of technology and are experiencing the dozens of enhanced applications I have imagined as well as the thousands I have yet to envision, no one will look back and hand me a trophy. I don't care. I want this to happen because I want to be a consumer on the receiving end of these compelling and superlative experiences.

Which, at that point, will seem so obvious that, well, I will have moved on to predicting what comes after that.


Possibility of Kinect-like device from other companies

If kinect's motion sensor is as precise and as perfect as what we've seen in the demo, your prediction is at the pinnacle of reality. :)

iOS and Android apps to interact with Kinect? It's quite a blur but there's a possibility.

But what if Apple, Google, and Sony will invent a better Kinect-like device? Hmmmmmm...

Great article

Thank you; somebody "gets it!"

Did you ever write the same

Did you ever write the same thing about Zune?

Nice, Ralph

I appreciate your skepticism, Ralph. Like I said, in 10 years, when 70% of homes have this technology (not necessarily made by Microsoft, but by someone), don't feel the obligation to come back and admit I was right. Predicting this will succeed is not like trying to decide if Zune will succeed or not. It's more like trying to predict whether the keyboard will catch on or whether a computer mouse will come into popular use or whether touch screens will matter. The answer in all those cases was yes, the answer in this case is a definite yes.

And no, I did not predict Zune would succeed. The last thing I completely overvalued was e-wallets, in 1999. Most of my other mistakes have been in underestimating the speed of something's success: In 2007 I properly identified the 5 million people likely to want Amazon's Kindle, but wrongly decided it would take 5 years to reach them. Instead, it took 3.

I respectfully disagree. The

I respectfully disagree. The original tech behind this may have been life changing, but this downgraded child device will be little more than show that Microsoft's pattern of me too, or look we're cooler products will continue to backfire. They are investing 500 million into promoting it. Will their game devision ever become profitable?

Hearing that is what reminds me of Zune. Still if Microsoft can capture a couple percent of the casual market then maybe this strategy will ultimately pay off. It will be Windows 7 parties all over again.

I see what you're saying

I understand your concerns about Microsoft (and your jab about Windows 7 parties, which is a fair point, although Windows 7 is Microsoft's most successful OS of the past decade, which we should keep in mind, lame parties or not!).

And actually, the best criticism of Kinect is as a gaming platform. Sony Move and Sony Eye actually make for better gameplay. But Kinect isn't about gaming, and if Microsoft tries to make it only be about gaming, then it will fail as you suggest.

Hey... 5 millions of units

Hey... 5 millions of units sold in two months... Just a child toy faded to die... yeah... keep thinking that way apple iFanboy.

I'd love to try on clothes

I'd love to try on clothes using the kinect- ASOS listen up!

Can't tell if you're serious, but...

If you are serious, Sophie, you are not alone. As I have shown the clothes demo to over a thousand people across many different settings, the women have universally gone wide-eyed when they see it. My wife, generally nonplussed by the cool things I bring home, finally said she understood Kinect when I showed her the clothing demo. Make no mistake, this will be a big deal.

What!?! I have always wished

What!?! I have always wished for a digital way to try on clothes. Is that truly a near reality? Fantastic.

I agree, I see Kinect as a

I agree, I see Kinect as a big step forward in human computer interaction (assuming it works as well as advertised). I see very much potential for it. I look forward to getting one.

Microwave ovens, video phones, Kinect

For those of us who read Heinlein, Asimov, etc., your prediction is dead-on, only about 50 years behind theirs. Kudos nonetheless, for recognizing the product/technology that'll get us there.

100% right, the credit goes elsewhere

You're so right, as a big fan of all those writers (and a few others still living who have been equally prophetic like Card or Stephenson), I am happy to give them the credit. Though I will say, if you really take those authors seriously (as I did growing up), you would be terribly disappointed that it has taken us this long to get where we are...

I m not a big fan of

I m not a big fan of "experts" especially when it comes to prediction of human / social aspects. You mention one of your successful predictions in the article and one unsuccessful and another successful in the comments. Hardly enough to justify "on balance I have been successful". You could and probably were just lucky.

That said I totally agree with you on the kinect. It could really revolutionalize so many things, game and tv control is just the tip of the iceberg. Even accecdotally my wife who is not technical at all just wants to tell her pc what to do and have it do it. This would amazingly enpower so many people like her. The main thing I am really scared about is that this is like dragon speaking naturally and other such technologies. There is a ad for dragon of user jumping out of a plane and using voice commands still. Is the super responsiveness and accuracy and performance of the kinnet reality? If yes welcome to the revolution and happy to hail you as the oracle

Microsoft might have taken it

Microsoft might have taken it a step further, but if there's going to be any sort of gesture interface revolution, Nintendo taking a chance with the Wii is ultimately going to be to thank for it. Nintendo opted to innovate where the Xbox and PS3 opted for the same old, same old simply with better graphics.

Not entirely ture, PS3

Not entirely ture, PS3 launched with the six axis controller. This allowed you to simple tilt the controller in order to steer/navigate racing games fps, as well as, a game where you fly on a dragon. While the idea for motion sensative controllers is an interesting concept, it didnt go over well with the more hardcore gaming community and thus is no longer an active product made by sony.

Other then that interactive motion controlls have been in the market for many years now within the arcade game community.

On a side note to the primary topic, kinect is the start of mainstreaming the idea of augmented reality. It's been rumored that this technology is being tested in Bill Gates home along with Windows 9. The goal that microsoft is building towards is fully interactive housing. You walk into a room, the walls change colors to your preference, the air adjusts to the temperature that you enjoy, multiple entertainment medias can load and play on seperate walls or other various locations.

That’s what I love about the

That’s what I love about the Kinect, is the fact that the most exciting part of the accessory isn’t what it was intended for. This was always supposed to be a gaming experience. What Microsoft is finding out is that they have a real gem at a great pricepoint.

I mean look what they are doing now adays! Autonomously driving robots and thats only the beginning of what this thing will be capable of doing.

I mean look at the Kinect hacking community at Open Kinect. They even are having Meetups now around public cities demonstrating the latest hacks in real time.

Amazing community and I look forward to more of these.