I guess that this post is going to be a mixture of the second half of Day 1 and the first half of Day 2 because I wan’t prepared to stay up all night (in the UK) to watch all the keynotes live. It seems that most of the main announcements have been at the beginning of the work so hopefully my feeds won’t be filling up as much from now on. Hopefully.
Microsoft had their massive conference yesterday evening and from what I can gather they didn’t really have anything new. They had a video of an autotuned Bill Gates rapping (I think I’m glad I missed that…), did some Windows 8 demos and talked about the wonderful apps it would come with and demoed some of the new Windows Phones (one of my friends has now told me I can drop the 7). From what I can gather they’ve also launched an updated and slightly modified version of Kinect for PCs that will work better at short distances, thus making it possible to interact with a PC without standing up.
The Lumia 900 doesn’t look too bad either – just a slightly updated version of the the 800 and available in North America. It seems that Nokia will probably (with Microsoft’s help) be making some of the better Windows Phones over the next few years unless Android comes to rule over everything. Samsung have also demonstrated a ‘Smart TV’ runs a revised version of Google TV so that it can basically work like an Android phone, which is a bit weird.
Computers, surprisingly, have been pretty big this year with loads of Ultrabooks (HP has showed off some pretty cool ones that basically look like modified MacBook Pros) and there have even been a few demoed with touch screens and Windows 8. Vizio’s new tablet and PCs continue to look more awesome than everything else as well.
Kinect is cool to a certain extent. It may be an XBOX gadget but the idea behind it is pretty much there – you dance around and the sensor feeds your movements back to the game. Microsoft essentially aim to produce the most diverse gaming experience possible and it has been very popular with social/casual gamers however it has not been as popular with the more hard core members of the community. Ideally it should have arrived a few years previously before the Wii was launched, and if that had happened Microsoft would easily have an XBOX in 1/3 of homes.
Kinect has been around since last year and so rumors are beginning to emerge about Kinect 2. The new Kinect would be released early next year and would have a dramatically improved sensor – the visible light camera on the current model is 640 by 480 and the infra-red sensor is 320-240. Clearly this will need to be improved before the release of the next model. If it had a higher resolution (and faster chip?) it may be able to pick up facial movements better, potentially allowing for lip reading.
The other thing to talk about with Kinect is a more official event. Microsoft have announced a scheme called ‘The Kinect Accelerator’. They plan to sponsor ten start-ups with $20,000 and office space to come up with a viable business use of Kinect, including everything from XBOX games to public galleries. The idea is interesting and no doubt it will be successful, but I would doubt that Microsoft will get all their money back.
I hate contributing to rumors on the internet but sheer curiosity has lead me to write this post. As I have said in previous posts I am not a gamer and I don’t pretend to be but it is still interesting all the same. The PlayStation 4 will clearly happen at some point in the next two-three years and we can imagine that it will be better than its predecessors. The first big rumor is that it will be a lot more eco-friendly than other consoles and older versions to give Sony a better environment rating. The device will be made of eco-friendly materials and draw a lot less power.
The obvious things like processor, RAM and hard disk will probably be improved and the console will definitely be made thinner because it was a dramatic improved (I am told) to the PS3 when it got thinner. I would throw out that the device may not have a disk drive which would seem a shame but it would make it cheaper and would also allow Sony to properly develop a marketplace for games so that they can be solid over the internet and downloaded onto the device which will probably be a move taken by many consoles/platforms over the next few years.
A lot of gamers (apparently) are jealous of the XBOX 360′s Kinect and they hope that Sony will develop something similar. It probably won’t because they have a thing about buttons. The controller might change a bit but it wouldn’t be in Sony’s interest to do so. It does seem on the internet that the main concern at the moment is just whether it has an eight core processor but Sony’s big worry is price. Amazon tells me I can get a brand new XBOX 360 for $179.99, a Wii with Mario Kart for $170 and a PS3 for $250+. The reason that the Wii and XBOX are priced lower is because they are trying to appeal to the entire family with more varied games whereas the PS3 is increasingly becoming the home of the FPS and racing games. The PS4 will have to drop the price without sacrificing features.
Prediction and guess work is actually quite a big part of how the internet works. More than ever computers are having to guess at what we want so that they can act in the most effective way possible. Some things such as Microsoft’s Kinect are very good at this as a large amount of guess work is done by the software to work out where you are. Of course this doesn’t always work but it is getting a lot better. Facebook is similar as your News Feed guess who you want to see and what you want to seem from them. All of this relates to Artificial Intelligence which is an incredibly interesting, if not slightly mysterious, field.
I am doing this blog post because I realized how much work every day goes into prediction. Every time you Google something it predicts what you want to search for based on what it already knows about you and also what it knows about other people. For instance, yesterday there was madness across the internet when people discovered Google would spin round when you search for either ‘do a barrel roll’ or ‘barrel roll’. The effect of so many people searching for ‘do a barrel roll’ has been that even if you just type ‘do a’ into Google it will start spinning before you get the chance to do something else. ‘Do a barrel roll’ is currently the top most searched for item of the day in the United States (and probably a lot of other countries).
I normally do my blog posts after I have checked through all my other feeds on Google Reader and I noticed that I clicked through over 150 items today (it only took a few minutes) however I only read one of the articles in full. If Google had been trying to bet what I met have read it would have probably got it completely wrong because what I click on depends on many more factors than just what it already knows – for instance mood, time I have to read the articles and what I’ve been doing that day may all affect what I click on.
I am probably usual and unusual in this respect. I am probably normal because I can’t be predicted all the time but I am probably a lot more unpredictable than a lot of other people because I have a varied interest in many different things. Certain behavior is certain though because I am almost guaranteed to boot up my computer, go on Chrome, check my Gmail, check Google Reader, view WordPress stats, do a blog post, open up Firefox (and Thunderbird) and then post it on Google+. I might have launched iTunes as well.
Digg is another great example of bad prediction. I am probably a bit lazy in Digging things so I frequently find that the ‘My news’ section is full with a load of rubbish that I don’t really want to read. I generally just go for Top News instead.
Prediction, in any form, requires you to give some data before it can work properly. In Google’s case it is search history, in Facebook’s it is what we like, in Digg’s it is what I read and Digg and in Kinect it is what I look like in specific positions. Perhaps I am lazy being unwilling to give this, but it is unnerving realizing how far Artificial Intelligence has come.
Microsoft has just released the official beta of the Kinect SDK for Windows 7. According to the website this SDK will work with all Windows 7 Dual-core computers (above a minimum system requirements, and requiring the Kinect sensor, obviously) and will allow for native and .Net coding using C++, C# or Visual Basic.
According to the Getting Started guide the SDK will enable developers to use the full potential of Kinect to build applications that take advantage of skeletal tracking with two people, audio recognition and a whole batch of Native and .Net APIs that allow for all sorts of cool features. The website is full of a lot of content about NUIs – Natural User Interfaces – that are designed for users to able to wave their arms around to use.
It does look like the SDK is quite cool and I am sure that in the next few weeks, if not days, there will be all sorts of fascinating applications emerging. It is no surprise that Microsoft has released the SDK, but I am glad that their website was always telling the truth: it was coming Spring 2011.
My Microsoft Research RSS feed has just told me that the Kinect SDK Beta for Windows 7 should be coming up soon, but the links are currently blank.
I’ve just found in Google Reader that there is going to be an important annoucement today on Channel 9 about Kinect Technology. You can watch it live from 9.30 AM PT through 2 PM PT on Channel 9. Could this be the long awaited Kinect SDK for Windows?
A while ago Microsoft announced that it would be releasing the Kinect SDK for Windows allowing developers to properly take advantage of Kinect so that they can build their own applications. The SDK is meant to be a great leap forward because developers are currently having to put up with half-finished SDKs built by hackers that can’t quite get to the full potential of Kinect, whereas Microsoft has promised that the official SDK will be able to reach all of the features of Kinect.
But Microsoft is being peculiar about this. There have been no updates to the Microsoft Research Kinect SDK Blog since mid-April and the site still says that the Kinect SDK will be released in Spring 2011, and by my calculations we only have 16 days of Spring left until Summer starts on June 21st. I find it peculiar that Microsoft aren’t giving any clues at when the SDK will be released because it will be of great use to them because it will mean that ‘official’ Windows Kinect apps might actually emerge – allowing us to properly develop with them.
The alternative could be that Microsoft after delaying the release until the BUILD conference in September when it is expected that the majority of Windows 8 features will be announced, and there is speculation that gestures are going to be a core part of Windows 8, potentially meaning that the Kinect SDK project is dead, and some sort of webcam/gesture project has taken over…