NUAds: Microsoft’s Interactive Ad Platform For Xbox Kinect

Advertisements are a major source for revenues and one would expect ads to evolve with the platform they are being served on. Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect is about body gestures and voice, like iOS is about touch. For iOS, Apple introduced iAds, an advertising platform for app developers to create apps that offer an interactive and beautiful experience for the user. Similarly, Microsoft seems to be planning their own advertising platform for the Xbox that will leverage Kinect’s capabilities.

Called NUAds, which I assume could mean Natural User Ads (NUI or Natural User Interface is something Microsoft has been talking about for quite a while.) A recent trademark application filed by Microsoft explains what NUAds is:

Advertising services, namely, promoting and marketing the goods and services of others through online interactive video games by enabling consumers to interact with third-party advertising content through voice or body gestures via computer game console and sensor devices

As the description explains, NUAds will be in-game advertisements where the user can interact with the products or features being advertised using Kinect’s body tracking and voice control. Even though a lot of us don’t like ads interrupting  our activities, adding gesture control could change the experience.

Microsoft will be having some policies on how game publishers will be using NUAds and we shall share more information as we get it.

This is the future of advertisements, Minority Report style.

Microsoft at the E3: Force Kinect Kinect Kinect And Oh Some More Kinect Into Everything

Do not get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of the Kinect peripheral from Microsoft. It is a revolutionary piece of hardware which will most likely pave the way for the extremely high-tech gesture-based input that we have seen in the realm Science Fiction (such as Minority Report, for example). Its use in video games for the Xbox 360 is fabulous in most cases, and is an instant party ice breaker, or a great way to relax (not really!) with friends and family. It’s the Wiimote all grown up. There have also been numerous modifications and excellent uses of this brilliant little peripheral in a lot of places.

Kinect_logo_print

Yes, the Kinect is a great peripheral. However, it is just that for now. The Xbox controller is still the controller for games. It worked for Nintendo when they launched the Wii. It was great it was fun and it was casual.

I would like you, Mr. Doubter-of-why-Kinect-should-not-be-in-everything to play a semi-serious game such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars using a Kinect. I had to stifle the biggest cringe of my life when the presenter jumped’ and said Lightsaber On!.

The Kinect works on some games admirably. Dance Central, for example is one of the prime reasons one should consider buying a Kinect (if one harbors a secret or open love for terpsichore). But, for some other games there is absolutely no need for it to even be there. How would you play Minecraft on an Xbox 360 with the Kinect, is my question. They way things work with Minecraft, your real arms will wear down sooner than the miner’s as you are mining for diamonds!

KinectSensor

Of course, I understand that there will always be takers for these games since they look cool, and that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, going for the development of rather horrendous Kinect titles while sacrificing the development of better titles is not how a company caters to its core customer. The Kinect on Fable is not immersive, but slightly dorky. The Kinect on Star Wars looks like what my imaginary younger brother would stick his tongue out at.

What would work well (and has been put to good use) is using the Kinect as a peripheral rather than a main game controller. Perhaps using the mic to issue voice orders (like it has been implemented in Mass Effect 3), or using gestures to give orders to your AI teammates while continuing to play with the controller.

It is quite sad that Microsoft is trying desperately to cash in on the interest of the Kinect. It will lose its charm frightfully soon if it is forced down our throats in every possible way.

Are you listening, Microsoft?

Try Xbox Kinect At Your Home Before Buying: New Microsoft India Campaign

xbox-try-buy

In a very interesting campaign, the Xbox India division is allowing users to try the Xbox 360 and Kinect at their homes and then decide if they want to buy it. The facility is available in partnership with an electronics retail chain E Zone and limited to only 3 outlets (and 2 cities) across India. Currently available only at:

  1. E Zone: Oberoi Mall, Mumbai
  2. E Zone: Powai (Mumbai)
  3. E Zone: Koramangala Mall, Bengaluru

This is a clever marketing strategy from people at Microsoft India. Though the fine print hasn’t been shared, enthusiasts and casual gamers should indeed give it a try and then perhaps buy.

via Xbox 360 India

Microsoft Pilots Xbox Kinect For Interactive Education In South African School

Microsoft shared details on how they are using Xbox Kinect in a rural South Africa school for education. The project involves, Microsoft’s Live@Edu, a NGO — SchoolNet SA who helped develop the training material along with the local experts.

For those who remember, Xbox Kinect was known as Project Natal and the school in South African province KwaZulu-Natal is where the pilot has started.

Here’s a video shared by the team:

New Kinect Sensor Being Worked On, From The Inside

The Xbox Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 changed Microsoft’s fortunes. The company suddenly got  recognized  as an innovative company and bagged quite a few awards for the Kinect. One of the factors responsible for Kinect’s success are the community projects. Microsoft has not sued any of the hackers unlike Sony and in fact released a SDK for developers to play around with the Kinect. But what’s next?

Knowing Microsoft, the next iteration is usually under discussions by the time a version ships out and I came across two job posting that clearly indicate that the next Kinect sensor is well underway and Microsoft is looking to change the guts. Here are  excerpts  from job postings:

The optical engineer will be responsible for designing and specifying interface requirements among opto-mechanical system, modules, and components […]

should have a working knowledge of radiometry, photometry, and optical testing, and apply these skills to identify critical to quality metrics for imaging and illumination systems.

[…] will also be responsible for qualification of injection molded lenses, accessory components, camera module, and solid state light sources.

Opto-mechanical systems are tiny mechanical circuits, much like the motors in the Kinect that follow you around. Another application:

responsibilities of this position are focused on specifying, designing, implementing and verifying subsystems in the sensor electrical design. This includes owning the part selections, schematic capture, PCB layout, BOM, and cost analysis of the subsystem design.

The subsystems include high speed busses (RGB, IR, USB, I2S), memory, audio/video interfaces, system clocking, power and thermal management, and misc. analog/digital circuitry.

This job application talks about the internal circuits of the Kinect.


Kinect Sales Over 10 Million; Bags a Guinness World Record

Xbox KinectThe Xbox Kinect has been a very popular device for users of the Xbox 360 gaming console and has also attracted a very active modder community. It has had record sales since launch which have been vetted by Guinness World Records.

Boosted by Christmas, the Kinect had sold over 8 million units by the first week of January 2011, with an average of 133,333 units sold daily, in its first 60 days of sale. It has been confirmed as the fastest selling consumer electronics device by Guinness.

“The sales figures here speak for themselves,” said Gaz Deaves, Gaming Editor for Guinness World Records. “According to independent research, no other consumer electronics device sold faster within a 60-day time span, which is an incredible achievement considering the strength of the sector.”

Today, Microsoft confirmed that the Kinect has sold over 10 million units. Sales of the Kinect sensor and Kinect games are only expected to rise further. After a long time, Microsoft finally has a huge hit on its hands.

via Xbox and Guinness

Microsoft to Publish SDK for the Kinect Controller

Microsoft’s Kinect controller for the Xbox 360 has been a huge hit in the international market. Unlike the Nintendo Wii controllers and the Sony PlayStation Move and the PlayStation Eye, the Kinect allowed players to use their entire body as a controller. The Kinect has a 3D depth sensor implemented by two monochrome CMOS cameras and an infrared light as well as an RGB camera, allowing for depth-sensitive motion detection and facial recognition capabilities. In effect, it allowed players to drivea steering wheel of a car, use the main menu of the Xbox 360 using gestures and, of course, dance to Dance Central.

kinectplain

However, all this was possible only with the Xbox 360 console. PC gamers were loth to admire the brilliance of the system. It’s not supported on my platform, shouted some, while others hacked the system and made some extremely cool user interfaces a la Minority Report. Microsoft listened to all those hungry shouts and more importantly looked at the achievements of some brilliant minds working with the Kinect. They decided to release the Software Development Kit (SDK) for the Kinect.

KinectBoxHead

This SDK will give access to the secrets of the gesture-based game controller without hacking it thoroughly(!) Microsoft has stated that initially the SDK will be available for personal use (probably with the XNA Game Studio), but a commercial version might be released later.

Rejoice new age gamers! A new era might begin with gesture based gaming soon!

Demos of Windows Phone 7 Features Showed At MWC 2011

We already told you about the upcoming software upgrades Microsoft plans this year for their WP7 platform. Among the key features expected are:

  • Copy/Paste in the first update expected in March
  • Multitasking
  • IE9 Mobile with HTMLS
  • Twitter integration to the People hub
  • Kinect integration

It was surprising of Microsoft to not implementing copy/paste in the first release and there have been a few explanations given but bowing to pressure, they decided to push copy/paste as part of the first update to Windows Phone 7. Here’s a demo of the copy/paste feature:

In many ways, Microsoft took two steps back with WP7 by not implementing copy/paste & multitasking which are both part of Windows Mobile but with time Microsoft plans to fill in these gaps. At MWC 2011, Microsoft demonstrated their multitasking implementation in WP7. Here’s a short demo (view around 2:50):

Similar to the cards in WebOS, press and hold action on the back button will launch the multitasking UI allowing you to browse through the apps running in the background. Audio applications will be able to continue playing in the background as part of multitasking.

With their desktop version of Internet Explorer finally being standard compliant to a large extent and fast to use, Microsoft will be bringing IE9 with HTML5 to Windows Phone 7 too. At MWC 2011, Microsoft showed a performance demo of IE9 Mobile:

Microsoft had earlier demonstrated the ability to continue playing a games across the PC, Xbox and WP7. At MWC 2011, Microsoft showed Kinect, Xbox LIVE and WP7 integration adding a new dimension to multiplayer gaming. The video demo shows two users throwing balls using their WP7 devices while the third player is defending himself using the Kinect & Xbox. Video:

The People hub that allows you to integrate your contacts with their Windows Live and Facebook profiles to fetch updates and contact details will add twitter as well. Microsoft posted a screenshot showing twitter updates of an individual along with Facebook and Windows Live updates:

wp7-twitter

If Microsoft is able to push out these updates by year end, Microsoft should have a mobile platform with all features one would expect in a modern OS.

Activate3D wants to increase your immersion in games

Motion Sensing is all the rage these days, and it’s all Nintendo’s fault. Starting with the Nintendo Wii’s Wiimotes and eventually ending up with the Sony PlayStation Move controller and the ever-modded Microsoft Kinect, motion-based gameplay has come a very long way. We all have seen how Microsoft’s revolutionary motion-capturing controller has allowed for a lot of awesome hacks and mods. So what could possibly better all of these brilliant pieces of tech?

activate

A new kind of software technology, of course! Activate3D has come up with a new piece of tech called Intelligent Character Motion (ICM) technology. The ICM basically allows the player to feelthrough the virtual world as if they were in it the ultimate goal of most of these motion control input devices. Based on the input (via a Kinect sensor or a Wii wand or any other motion-sensing device) and the surrounds of the virtual avatar, the ICM predicts the most accurate action based on the context. This means that climbing ropes, walking around and swinging on bars would be intuitive.

ICM has been developed after a lot of academic research in this field. CEO and co-founder Jeff Levy said:-

The next few years will see huge advancements in motion input devices.   Translating these new paradigms into compelling and fun games will be challenging.   We are excited about the possibilities that ICM will bring to these next generation games.

We sure are looking forward to immersive gaming based on this new technology!

Minecraft + Kinect = Internet Glory

The Microsoft Kinect motion-sensing gaming system is probably one of the finer and sharper tools in comparison to the blunt, uncivilized clubs that are the PSMove and Wiimote. Actually no; I was kidding in a bid to start a console war on the comments thread of this post. In fact the Kinect is the most different piece of equipment in that it uses a infrared depth sensing camera (and some other technological wizardry) so that your movements in front of the camera translate into movements in the game.

Minecraft, on the other hand is E Lego, as my friend eloquently put it. You have blocks, lots and lots of blocks and you can build a lot of things from within the game world. The maximum surface area achievable on Minecraft is eight times that of the surface area of the Earth. People have been busy building a lot of absolutely gorgeous automated machines, gargantuan sculptures and horsing around with the source code to make ducks sound like they hate you.

minkin2

That is all very cool but what have the hackers been up to? More importantly, what is the connection between the previous two paragraphs? The title puts it well, I believe. Nathan Viniconis, a retro cool Python programmer (retro cool was our addition) did something completely awesome. He took a Kinect and made it take a picture of him. He then made Python scripts to import a pixel version of the 3D image into Minecraft, resulting in some gloriously blown up sculptures of him and people/things around him.

minkin3

Hit up his website (which is under severe pressure from RPS, Kotaku and Reddit) to get the code. Also, tell us if you actually implemented all that Python-fu!