posted by Kurt Brockett
I have to admit that originally I was very skeptical of the Project Natal marketing that was recently done at E3 by Microsoft. What was especially a bit far fetched was the family room setting that the produced video was set in. Working in the NUI space I immediately picked apart every scene with questions like "well how does it know that's Johnny?" or "How does it get the picture of the skateboard UNDERNEATH the kids hand that is holding it up?". To provide proper context watch the promo video for Natal below:
Though my view is jaded because of my work it also gives me the benefit of having a little insight into how this could actually be pulled off and why in fact it may soon be reality. People always ask "how would they do that?" and my response is "well how would you do that?'. Meaning how would you as a human differentiate between people or recognize a hand moving in space? Once you answer that question you just need to then replicate that logic in code. The cameras need to provide enough resolution as your eyes and a processor needs to have enough power as your brain. Then connecting the two is software algorithms, something that is constantly evolving.
- How would you differentiate between people? - Well it would be a combination of two unique objects moving. Distinguished by edges of the silhouette and coloration and shape of clothing, etc. Don't think it's possible with today's technology? Check out this research video from Adobe specifically around 1:25-2:00:
Now you can start to see how this could be possible. With enough resources (time, money, people) the envelope will continually be pushed forward. Luckily large companies are continuing to commit large R&D budgets to this type of work. One of those is of course Microsoft and they are hiring some of the best and brightest in this area to help move Natal and other such technologies forward. Though Natal is focused on gaming you can be sure IdentityMine has every intention on getting our hands on some units and apis to integrate this as another input into great software experiences. For a small dive into some of the specifics behind the camera technology and a little lesson on where Microsoft may be going with the technology, check out the video with Johnny Lee on Channel9 by Scott Hanselman at MIX09 from earlier this year.
The project Natal work is just a snapshot taken for marketing purposes at E3 but you can bet that the technology is evolving at a very rapid clip.