In case you didn't catch Meet the Press this Sunday, Bill Gates made an appearance. The segment mainly dealt with his foundation, but dabbled a bit with technology. Specifically, Gates discussed the future of interface - how keyboards and mice are just one means of interaction. Here's an excerpt:
"Bill Gates, founder, Microsoft: We'll also have computers we can talk to, computers that can see what we're doing. So whether it's making a gesture in a business meeting to zoom in on a chart or try and look at what a house would be like before it's built, this idea of the computer seeing 3D displays and voice interaction leads you to where the keyboard and the mouse, which is how we think of the computer today, is not the only way we interact. It's a far more immersive, rich environment....
David Gregory, host, Meet the Press: We can talk to each other?
Gates: Absolutely. You'll be able to put onto the wall of your office a video conference with whoever you'd like and have the computer listen to what's going on there and create a transcript and make it searchable. And so, natural interface, I think is the thing that people underestimate right now."
Of course the subtext here is Project Natal, the motion-sensing camera due next year. Project Natal will allow gamers to manipulate action on screen without the use of controllers. Miming as a race car driver is neat enough, but how about flipping through files like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. That's where this is heading. And this is another perfect example of how gaming drives innovation. Project Natal's most immediate and compelling application is in the entertainment space. Innovation/experimentation will happen here first, then trickle down into utility programs.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.