Microsoft’s Kinect has made a very decent showing at retail since its initial release in November 2011. As of March 2011, Microsoft has shipped 10 million Kinect units, and 8 million of those flew off the shelves within the first two months of the peripheral’s retail debut.
Good stuff, but Microsoft thinks big, and it would like to see the Kinect’s influence touch every Xbox 360 owner on the planet. That probably won’t happen, at least not in a traditional sense: despite the Kinect’s novelty, the majority of traditional gamers got their fill of motion controls about two years into the Wii’s lifespan.
Microsoft seems to understand this, however, and has supposedly been thinking outside the Xbox from day one by pitching the Kinect as a commercial device instead of a mere toy. Some proposed alternative uses for the Kinect’s hands-free interface include “virtual dressing rooms for clothing stores,” and various applications for science, family and medicine.
It’s a smart idea for Microsoft to lengthen the Kinect’s reach, as it’s a unique piece of hardware that can actually prove beneficial to society if it’s doing something aside from simply boosting the business‘ returns and/or perching on gamers’ televisions like a plastic blackbird. Whereas Sony’s Move and the Wii track a controller, the Kinect tracks the user’s whole body, thus taking a generous step into concepts that have only been realized in science fiction movies. Microsoft has already begun a program that encourages vendors to develop Kinect-compatible hardware and software. Over 20 businesses and 200 brands have already signed up for the program, including Toyota and Razorfish.
In the past, technology that was born for video game-related purposes has evolved to benefit humankind in different ways. But the Kinect presents an interesting scenario wherein Microsoft decided from the start (or close enough to the start) that its peripheral has the potential to act as more than a mere distraction. Not only will the Kinect’s alternative uses prove interesting, but the Kinect’s expansion might help brighten the media’s generally negative perception of gaming.
And, as gamers, it’s kind of nice to know that our expensive and admittedly frivolous toys serve a dual purpose by advancing technology and entertaining us.