What’s the best way to market your business to consumers? Well, it obviously depends on your business, but rest assured that if your product or service is something truly worthwhile, it may end up marketing itself—in different ways than you may have originally imagined. When that’s the case, all you need to do is just sit back and let your consumers tell you what works and what doesn’t.
That’s exactly what’s happening with Microsoft’s latest effort in the videogame market—the Kinect. For those unfamiliar with the product, the Kinect is basically a hardware expansion for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 that allows users to interact with specific games without the aid of a handheld controller. The Kinect uses an integrated, motion-sensing camera to capture the player’s physical movements and translate them into gameplay commands. Essentially, the player’s body is the controller. When you move your hands, arms and body, the onscreen character that you’re controlling mimics your movements. It’s an intriguing new concept that opens the door for a number of dynamic new gameplay opportunities.
The product, however, hasn’t quite taken off yet—primarily because the games that have been officially released to stores under the “Kinect” label are the only ones you can actually play using the device. And, truth be told, they’re not exactly the greatest of games to begin with. They function well with the hardware, but don’t necessarily take full advantage of the opportunity to create newer and bolder gaming experiences.
Well, guess what?! That’s not stopping owners of the device from taking matters into their own hands. A number of crafty videogame connoisseurs and tech-junkies have decided to take the hardware a step further than Microsoft originally intended. They’re now using the Kinect as a type of design platform by which they can develop intriguing (and practical) new applications for motion control. The industry refers to this as “Kinect hacking,” and although the product itself is not necessarily being “hacked” in the traditional sense, the idea is basically the same: to subvert the intended purpose of the device for the user’s own benefit.
Here’s the interesting part: Microsoft is okay with this! In fact, they’ve released statements indicating so. Company reps have even expressed their outright excitement at the prospect of users discovering the hardware’s full potential through experimentation. The company’s enthusiasm does make sense, given that there have already been several new motion control applications developed by proactive hackers since the Kinect’s release (only two short months ago).
Believe it or not, there isn’t enough space in a single paragraph to completely list the number of Kinect hacks that have surfaced so far. The device is being used as an intermediary tool in everything from digital art and design to videogame control and virtual reality simulation. In some areas, the results are actually pretty impressive. ABC News even did a full report on the trend.
There’s really no upper limit on the kind of creativity that the hardware makes possible. For instance, hackers have already devised ways of using their exact body movements to control their favorite games (from running and jumping in Super Mario Bros. to spell-casting in World of Warcraft—click here to see). They’ve even figured out how to use hand gestures as a way to control everything from Windows apps to Google Maps. Others have been able to use the hardware to render some fairly impressive visual effects—a light-saber demonstration (rendered in real-time using the device) is currently a favorite on YouTube.
At the very least, a hands-free interface with computers and televisions is interesting food for thought. Who knows what the future will hold for it? Though still in its infancy, this kind of advanced interaction (minus a mouse or a controller) could conceivably be the next giant leap in consumer-level tech. And just think: the world of Minority Report could soon become a reality—all doubters, click here.
Microsoft has taken an interesting business stance in advocating that its product be used in such an experimental manner. And again, it makes perfect sense. If your product offers room for improvement or further development, why not let your consumer base do the heavy lifting for you? Let them figure out what works and what doesn’t. After enough trial and error, the product’s significant selling points—or its application in broader markets—will soon surface. Though Microsoft has no immediate plans to pursue the further development of any unofficial, consumer-created apps, the potential to do so is certainly there.