Microsoft demonstrates latest Natural User Interface (NUI) advances

By Tom Warren, on 23rd Feb 11 3:57 pm with 15 Comments

Microsoft has been busy demonstrating its latest NUI advances to a group of technology journalists this week.

Microsoft’s chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, held a private tour of the company’s Applied Sciences Group earlier this week. Microsoft is showing off how it is using normal cameras to create 3D scans of people or objects. The company has posted videos of how the technology works. Microsoft’s 3D talking heads form the basis of its upcoming Avatar Kinect feature, due to debut on the Xbox 360 in the Spring. Microsoft uses 2D images from webcams or the Kinect sensor to create a 3D model of a face that can then track head movements and portray them on a virtual 3D avatar.

Microsoft has also been demonstrating its latest NUI work on prototype smart display technologies. Steven Bathiche (Stevie B), director of Microsoft’s applied sciences group and responsible for the Surface computer, demonstrates new prototype technologies that make use of new camera systems. Bathiche refers to the company’s Office Vision Video that shows how children can interact with two different sides of a large pane of glass. Bathitche demonstrates how close Microsoft is to achieving this vision and says that the company may start rolling out parts of the technology in around six months according to TechFlash.

Bathiche also demonstrates “wedge lenses” that can pick up activity above a surface using cameras mounted below a flat screen. The wedges are used to transmit light back out the other way as two separate images to create an auto-stereoscopic image to allow for glasses-free 3D in displays. CNET reports that the technology is similar to some TV manufacturers like Vizio.

The technology is impressive and shows that Microsoft is fully committed to Kinect in areas outside gaming. Microsoft said this week that the company plans to issue an official SDK for Kinect on PCs. The company hopes that its move will unleash a wave of creativity across the industry. Microsoft’s latest research work that could be available in just six months means the possibilities for Kinect are endless. Microsoft is betting big on Kinect and that bet will pay off with the upcoming integration in Windows 8 later this year.

  • Hash

    IMPRESSIVE !!!!

  • http://twitter.com/oolong2 oolong2

    Nice, but I always wonder where these Microosoft reseach projects ever go…. They have had lots and lots of research projects over the years that seem to never go anywhere.

    Are we going to have a 3D tablet where playing games is like looking through a window one day? Or is this just going to be another project that sits on the shelf collecting dust?

    Where’s second light? Where’s my 3D desktop? Where’s Courier?

    • GP007

      Parts of the tech ends up in different things. Kinect is right outta MSR, as is the Surface. And they’re just the start. All the multi-touch stuff and even parts, if not all of, the Metro UI has it’s roots in MSRs NUI tests.

      Courier is a good idea but it’s too early, a dual screen tablet would have poor battery life at this point, and cost too much because the dual multitouch+pen screens it would use aren’t exactly cheap. They can’t really expect to take over the market if it costs over $1k and only has 4hrs of battery life.

    • Anonymous

      good points. Surface 1 cost $10,000. Four years later, through all this research Surface 2 cost around $3000.

    • http://www.appatic.com Avatar X

      Surface 1 was 12.5k for consumer version and 15k for dev version.
      Surface 2 is 7.5K for consumer version and 10k for dev version.

      Goal is for Surface 3 (or whatever follows S2) to be 2.5-5k. But that is still like anywhere from 18 to 36 months away.

      You do can buy a used S1 starting on 5k though. just no longer from Microsoft.

    • http://twitter.com/oolong2 oolong2

      I consider Surface a research project still… Even Microsoft has seen it more as a platform to explore ideas more than anything else.

      15K for Surface 1 and 8k for Surface 2 as well as all the development required to build customized applications to get any use out of it is not meant for the masses by any means. Very little of Surface actually made it into Windows 7. I was expecting much much more.

      Dual screen tablets have been out for awhile. Toshiba, Acer, Motorolla, have all released dual screen tablets. It’s not a hardware problem nor is it a demand problem. Early adopters always pay premium prices for new technology.

      I can only hope that MS will take the oportunity to do something significant with Windows 8 and combine elements of Courier with elements of Surface and actually release something for the PC/Tablet world that changes the equation.. This is the time to do it…

    • Guest

      “I can only hope that MS will take the oportunity to do something significant with Windows 8 and combine elements of Courier with elements of Surface and actually release something for the PC/Tablet world that changes the equation..”

      You and all their shareholders. But I’ll be surprised if the W8 tablet effort is anything more than Metro UI on a streamlined Windows OS. It’s probably too late for them in tablets anyway. Another market they helped pioneer only to lose it.

    • http://twitter.com/oolong2 oolong2

      I definately don’t think it’s “too late” the fact is MS controls the desktop/laptop OS market….period. And no other company has released any serious contender to good stylus input which is critical for some businesses, artists, deseigners, engineers, students, etc.

      If MS releases a Stylus + Touch input device as introduced by Bill Buxton as “Project Gustav”, MS will seriously have a winner on their hands.

    • Guest

      Dominates. They no longer control it and they’ve been steadily losing share since Vista. And this isn’t about the desktop/laptop market anymore. That’s the point; tablets are disrupting PCs. Again, I think it’s too late for MS. Tablet success requires a compelling tablet OS + great hardware + great optimized apps + desirable subscriptions + 3rd pty peripherals. MS is still working on the first item, while many of their OEMs have now turned to Android (or Web OS in HP’s case).

      Yeah, Gustav was interesting a year ago. Seen anything more on it since? Exactly. Another MS R&D project that never sees the light of day.

    • GP007

      Parts of the tech ends up in different things. Kinect is right outta MSR, as is the Surface. And they’re just the start. All the multi-touch stuff and even parts, if not all of, the Metro UI has it’s roots in MSRs NUI tests.

      Courier is a good idea but it’s too early, a dual screen tablet would have poor battery life at this point, and cost too much because the dual multitouch+pen screens it would use aren’t exactly cheap. They can’t really expect to take over the market if it costs over $1k and only has 4hrs of battery life.

    • Anonymous

      As he mentions in the 2nd video we’ll probably see this in telepresense at first. Having one wall that brings two rooms on different continents together.

    • Rick

      How about starting at a more basic level. Where’s built in spell check for the OS and IE? MS likes to have lots of internal distractions. It helps keep their minds off how badly they’re being beaten externally.

  • Anonymous

    What I’d love is for Kinect to build an Avatar that looks like me.

  • http://twitter.com/sanketpatelcom Sanket Patel
  • Viruela22

    Tom also in a video of this Stevie B appears with a tablet that works wonderfully