Meet Microsoft, the world's best kept R&D secret

Robots, holodecks and augmented reality are some of the projects being worked on

By Matt Smith, PC World |  IT Management, augmented reality, Microsoft

Meanwhile, the SkinPut project--another CMU and MSR joint venture--also uses a projector to beam interactive displays onto your hand and arm, but its secret sauce is a sensor-packed armband. When you touch the projected image on your skin, the sensors analyze the vibrations in your arm to pinpoint the location of your touch and respond accordingly--hence the name. Yes, SkinPut turns you into both a monitor and a mouse simultaneously. The website shows the technology in action.

Becoming More Kinected

You may know the Kinect as a gaming peripheral for the Xbox 360, but Microsoft hopes that it will become far, far more than that. The company continues to pour effort into researching ways inexpensive cameras can be used to interact with computers.

There are many examples. Kinect Fusion allows for continuous, real-time scanning of an environment in order to create interactive 3D models, and it's coming to the Kinect for Windows SDK sometime soon. KinectTrack decouples the system's IR emitter and camera to precisely track a user's motion in multiple dimensions, mimicking the utility of expensive sensing systems with a $99 console accessory. SuperKid lets children create movies in real-time, complete with an array of interactive and customizable props. It doesn't sound revolutionary, but check out the awesome video below.

Systems like Kinect are likely to drive new interfaces that rely on movement rather than touch. Users could check email while washing dishes or pause a video from across a room. Kinect started as a gaming peripheral, but it might one day turn the PC into an ever-present device that can be controlled from any room at any time.

And that's not even touching on the robotics angle, where the Kinect has proven nothing short of revolutionary. The video below shows a robot playing catch, pseudo-juggling with multiple balls (and the help of a human with a second hand), and shaking its head in shame whenever it misses a catch. At the heart of this Disney Research creation? You guessed it--the Kinect.


The Xbox was Microsoft's ticket into the living room. Now that it's there, it has big plans--plans that may eventually transform your family space into a something like Star Trek's famous holodeck.

Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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