Microsoft‘s experiments with Kinect-style motion tracking technology for Windows 8 laptops could streamline the login experience as well as be used for games, though battery concerns might initially see the camera system offered as a self-powered add-on rather than fully integrated. After prototypes were reportedly caught in the wild earlier this month, sources inside Microsoft tell The Daily that the company is indeed readying a motion control licensing push, though there are hurdles to be overcome before that can happen.
While the systems work, the sources claim they’re extremely power-hungry. That’s not an issue for the existing Kinect, which gets its power from the Xbox 360, but for a notebook that could be the kiss of death. “Devices in the field must be plugged in whenever possible” the insiders suggest, with one possible solution for production hardware being separate camera units that carry their own battery packs and clip onto notebooks.
Although the prototypes were apparently modified ASUS netbooks, the company itself is not believed to be assisting Microsoft with the hardware trials. Instead, the hacked-together ultraportables are supposedly all Microsoft’s own work, as the company takes the prototype hardware into the wild to test how they cope in busy, noisy environments, and hopefully fine-tune the sensors involved.
ASUS is expected to be among the early adopters, however, given it already has a foot in the door with its Xtion range of devices. However, motion-sensing Windows 8 hardware will be Kinect-only: Microsoft is supposedly insisting on its kit being the only such tracking system installed in each individual device. In return, vendors will be able to customize Windows 8 on Kinect-enabled devices, something that’s suggested may cause fragmentation, but also opens the door to keyboard- and mouse-free set-top boxes built using the OS’ Media Center functionality, where the regular Windows desktop isn’t seen at all.
As for other uses, the only one possibility that has been specifically mentioned is an advanced biometric security system: users sit in front of their computer and say “log me in” to access it. Although face-recognition log-in systems already exist – Lenovo has offered such a system on its ThinkPads for some time, and Google included the tech in Ice Cream Sandwich - the Windows 8 Kinect-based system will actually analyze both facial and vocal features to make sure it has a match.