Sunday, May 19, 2024

Microsoft’s Mundie Shows More ‘Natural’ UI

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Microsoft said last week that it will release a software developers kit (SDK) this spring enabling developers to create applications that link the software giant’s Kinect 3D user interface to Windows.

The move is part of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) evolution towards what company executives refer to as “natural user interface,” or NUI. That is, the objective is to take the user interface out of the realm of mice and clicks, and instead make it more responsive to user’s intent.

It started before Christmas when Kinect for Xbox 360 went on the market — selling some eight million unitsduring the holiday sales season.

“Kinect is the first example of this … of making the computer a lot more like we are,” Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, said in a video released last week. “We will be able to get computers to work at our behest, not just on our behalf,” he added.

That includes technologies that let computers have the ability to understand what an image is, or the meaning of speech through the use of voice recognition and response, for example.

“GUI [graphical UI] and NUI will be the interface of the future,” Mundie added. However, Mundie did not go so far as to say that any of the technologies currently on show will end up in Windows 8 when it ships sometime next year.

In fact, NUI has been a touchstone of sorts for Microsoft, particularly Mundie, in recent years. At the World Economic Forumin Davos, Switzerland, in late January, he ratcheted up the discussion among world leaders.

With last week’s demos to a small groupof journalists, it’s clear that Mundie and his cohorts see Kinect’s 3D sensing technology as just one of several technologies that will enable NUI scenarios going forward.

For instance, Microsoft demonstrated the use of a consumer digital camera or camera phone to take a series of 2D images and, by combining them, producing 3D images. The images are viewable via a standard browser.

Additionally, Mundie and company showed a photo realistic avatar, or “talking head,” that can deliver text in real-time.

“Today your car, your television, your cell phone and many other devices are starting to display these capabilities, making computing an increasingly invisible part of our lives. In a world where computing is all around us, computers are being endowed not only with greater computing capability, but also with more and more sensing capability,” Microsoft spokesperson Steve Clayton, said in a post to the Official Microsoft Blog.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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