In a recent interview with CNET, Bill Gates let spill the true scope of Microsoft's ambitions for the technology behind the Xbox's Project Natal. Basically, it isn't just a gaming gimmick—they want to try it everywhere.
Here's how everyone's still-favorite Microsoft figurehead (sorry Ballmer!) sees camera-based motion tech playing out:
[The concept also works] for media consumption as a whole, and even if they connect it up to Windows PCs for interacting in terms of meetings, and collaboration, and communication...I think the value is as great for if you're in the home, as you want to manage your movies, music, home system type stuff, it's very cool there.
Combined with his statements that it's specifically "Windows guys" who've latched onto the technology, this implies something like a motion-controlled Windows, core application set or, at the very least, Media Center. He doesn't offer any specifics, but gesture-based music, video and photo manipulation aren't too difficult to imagine. What about office uses?:
...I think there's incredible value as we use that in the office connected to a Windows PC. So Microsoft research and the product groups have a lot going on there, because you can use the cost reduction that will take place over the years to say, why shouldn't that be in most office environments.
So the coolest thing about Natal in the workplace is, based on what we know now, "cost reduction." Guys, I want dance-actuated PowerPoint presentations at a minimum.
We'll probably see some meatier details about Microsoft's wider motion control ambitions soon enough, but even with this scant information, it's fair to say that the company is serious about the technology. We're well overdue for an overhaul to the way we interact with computers, and the fact that Microsoft is aware of this—and doing something about it—is promising. Tentatively. [CNET]