Hackers Turns Google Practical Joke into Real Gesture-Controlled Email
It started out as a practical joke from some cheeky nerds at Google, but one weekend and a hacked Microsoft Kinect later, the gesture controlled email inbox is a reality. Put together by engineers at University of Southern California (USC) and unveiled to the Internet in the above video, this experiment highlights both the power of Kinect's motion tracking hardware and the impracticality of "Minority Report" interfaces for some mundane tasks.
Google's prank, shown in the video below, introduced a fake product called "Gmail Motion," wherein users would control their email accounts by waving their arms about. Part of the joke comes from the fact that gesture interface, which has appeared everywhere from "Iron Man 2" to patents recently filed by Apple, is not very good for basic tasks like writing email, despite being the hot natural-interface technique of the moment.
The USC scientists, who last year hacked a Kinect to allow full-body gesture control in World of Warcraft, went ahead and made the joke a reality by combining the Microsoft Kinect with their own proprietary software. The USC response, as much as the Google joke, also taps into a vibrant nerd meme. Since its release, hackers have appropriated the Kinect for everything from controlling robots to 3-D printing, spurring an Internet-wide competition to see who can come up with the coolest use for the device.
With Apple currently working on a Kinect-like gesture control system linked to a 3-D television, and Microsoft letting users deploy the Kinect as a remote control for streaming movies, what began as a joke will probably end up as a reality sooner rather than later.