Ever since I saw the movie Minority Report I wondered when we'd be getting similar technology in the real world. We're already seeing the large touch screens being used in TV shows like N.C.I.S. and Hawaii Five-O. The Microsoft Kinect, and similar platforms, gave us our first glimpse of such capabilities and since its introduction, two years ago, people have hacked and modified the technology to do all kinds of things beyond the simple scope of gaming. Examples include: controlling a quadrocopter; triggering a marketing display as people walk past; and using two of them to create 3D images for 3D printing.
In the meantime, the techies over at Microsoft haven't been idle. They've been working on HoloDesk (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/holodesk/) and while it's no Star Trek holodeck, it's certainly a step in that direction. They've also been using multiple Kinects to generate 3D maps of rooms that can be seen and manipulated without the need for special glasses. According to the Microsoft Research group, the next big thing will be "looking at pixels in the air without a screen".
Sounds great; where do I sign up? Of course, what some of us really want is virtual golf course technology that accurately represents the physics _ right down to those nasty hooks and slices _ and does so inexpensively for use in our own homes.
In the past Microsoft has been a bit slow to implement technologies like multi-touch, which came from Android and Apple before Microsoft got around to it. Most people will admit that, when it comes to gesture recognition, the Kinect product is the best and because it's been a big seller these new developments are more likely to hit the streets in the near future. Starting on the X-box, it is also available for the PC and it's in a price range that the average person can afford. Add natural language processing, and what used to cost a lot of money a couple of years ago is now everywhere. I, for one, am excited. And, in case my more longstanding readers think there's been a typing mistake: Yes, I am indeed praising a Microsoft product!
It was 25 years ago that IBM released OS/2 in an attempt to take over the PC world. Ironically, Microsoft developed the product alongside IBM. Back then Microsoft employed less than 2,000 people; IBM had over 400K; and the world was dominated by the mainframe computer.
The game units were the dominant PC flavour and Apple held a small place in the publishing market. The IBM PC was out, but not really that good, and Lotus and Wang were dominant in word processing and spread sheets.
There were no APIs, universal document standards or many others, for that matter. DOS was crude, and there were no Windows-style options. So OS/2 was something new. It had a GUI interface, multitasking and no real applications until the arrival of dBASE. Device drivers were terrible, memory was expensive and it bombed. Microsoft came out with Windows 3.0, device drivers and an application-development team. And the rest is history.
In today's instalment of the US Patent And Trademark Office Is Crazy series, it took them a mere 411 days to grant the patent on Apple's iOS's Siri voice-recognition icon. No, not Siri itself; just the icon. So even though Siri itself has problems, you can be secure in the knowledge that the icon is safe.
Amazon has been doing well in the UK. Depending on where you are as you read this, it may be worth checking the prices and shipping costs from the UK store versus the US one.
If you're looking for that special gift, then perhaps the latest phones from China could be something different. The Babiken C8 is a quad-SIM phone that has a few nice features. The Begin Digital GT looks like a gold Ferrari, but is actually fairly basic. The C99 Quad Band touch-screen phone is shaped like a five-pointed star. My only question is, why? The Jinpeng A1308 dual-band Dual-card phone is shaped like a heart, perfect for a very feminine partner. The Concox GK3537 is a rugged outdoor phone: GPS and walkie-talkie rolled into one.
The iPad Mini is not doing so well. The LCD screen chosen for the product has a low yield rate and AU Optronics and LG Display are losing money on this Apple part number. It could be three months before either firm starts making money and, to make things worse, backlighting components are scarce on the ground these days. Figure at least a two-week delay if you want to order one for yourself.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at email@example.com.
About the author
- Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer