Gesture-recognition technology, such as that seen in Project Natal, has changed the face of gaming, but Microsoft's Craig Mundie (pictured) believes it will also transform the office.
In a demo at Microsoft's financial analyst meeting in Redmond, Washington, the company's top research and strategy officer showed how the desktop computer of the future will use an entire office as both display and input device, with voice and gesture control augmenting the use of a number of touchscreens.
"The real question is what killer apps [will mark the] new era and what will be the user interface that people use to get at them," Mundie said.
His demo included hologram-like videoconferencing, a virtual digital assistant, and multiple surface computers, along with voice-, touch- and gesture-recognition technology. The desk in the demo was a multitouch surface computer, and the office's walls were also a display that could easily switch from being a virtual window or collection of digital photos to a corkboard of sticky notes or various workspaces. In one case, Mundie also used Project Natal-like depth cameras to put himself in the middle of an architectural demo, essentially putting himself inside a building that was not yet built.
His talk followed a demonstration by Microsoft entertainment chief Robbie Bach of the gaming potential of Project Natal. Bach played a game called Riccochet, in which players use their body to push, block and kick balls at various bricks. Microsoft showed off Project Natal at the E3 trade show earlier this year but hasn't said when the Xbox 360 add-on will be commercially available.
"I'm not playing the Riccochet game, but I am using these technologies," Mundie said. "This is our dream, but it is really not that far away. We see a pretty direct path to make this happen. We have all of the technologies to make this happen in our research labs."