Director, Worldwide Marketing and Operations
A recent Computer World story described how Microsoft has evolved to discover the virtues of openness. The article touched on one of my favorite examples of openness: Kinect. You may know how Kinect has captivated millions with its “invisible technology”, a term Stephen Spielberg and others used to describe how Kinect makes interactive entertainment accessible to everyone. No controllers. No remotes. No barriers between you and the technology. However, you may not know the path it has traveled. With support of an engaged community of platform enthusiasts, the device originally meant to revolutionize entertainment quickly evolved well beyond games to spark business innovations worldwide.
Let’s rewind to a year ago. Kinect, once a blue sky research project, was now shipping to millions of gamers. It sparked not only a ton of consumer interest – with a world record 8 million devices sold in 60 days – but also a wildfire within open source developer and enthusiast communities. The creative minds behind Kinect saw how embracing these communities would allow others to harness and perpetuate an innovation that was redefining interactive technology. Alex Kipman, General Manager of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, aptly described the potential to extend Kinect when he said, “one of the beautiful things about building platforms is the fact that to a certain extent platforms are just palettes – and what painters, what creative people will do with your palettes is amazing – it surprises you every single time.”
Fast forward to today. The past year was full of the kind of innovative “surprises” Kipman envisioned on the Kinect platform. With Microsoft’s release of the Kinect for Windows beta SDK last summer, enthusiast and academic communities grew. With the upcoming release of the official Kinect for Windows hardware and software next month, even more ideas are being cultivated worldwide. We’ve been amazed at the potential uses envisioned by so many industry experts: healthcare professionals exploring new ways to access information in the operating rooms of the future without sacrificing sterility; retailers building new shopping experiences, such as virtual dressing rooms; educators developing interactive applications to help guide and reinforce learning.
As we have watched these stories unfold, the term “Kinect Effect” has emerged in Microsoft hallways as a way to describe the remarkable and creative ways Kinect is being extended. The Kinect Effect inspired Microsoft’s Kinect Accelerator program, which supports platform enthusiasts and entrepreneurs in bringing to life a wide range of business ideas that leverage the limitless potential of Kinect. Program participants receive an impressive resource package, including a $20,000 investment, TechStars mentoring and Microsoft BizSpark resources. Check out the Kinect Accelerator, Kinect Effect and Kinect for Windows sites for a glimpse into the wide open future.