|Week 5 and we're starting to see some rounding out of the finished creations. For us judges it's also the week we start getting the hardware to test, and my Lenevo Yoga is in my hot little hands, getting belted around and abused, as happens to all my toys. It's a very, very solid, thou uninspiring unit. It is a Lenevo, after all, but what it does it does well. Great screen, lovely tactile feel on the keyboard, excellent battery life, but boring as bat-poo. It's the Toyota Camry of laptops - solid, reliable, no nonsense without offending anyone, but you're not going to scare anyone with it.
I do, however, want to slap the person responsible for the trackpad. It's awful.
Danny at Sixense [^]has shown his handpuppet wolf wandering around a 3D backdrop. In my mind they've completed their task and the rest is polish. Using only a camera and an Ultrabook you can buy off the shelf they've created a method of interacting and controlling software using complex gestures. Sure, we've had this on the Kinect for years, but this is new to laptops and beats some other gesture based controls[^] that the media seems to be going nuts over lately. Nice one.
Lee[^], too, is at the polish stage and has some words of wisdom about voice recognition: it doesn't work all that well but be a little clever and it'll work just fine given some context. This is the story of every developer's life, I think.
Soma[^] is deep into the task of rethinking their UI. They've tried the Minority Report style UI but it really is a little tiring and, well, unemotional. Tey continue a theme on performance issues they have face, specifically voice control and speed of recognition. There's a reason Siri needs to be connected to a server to do voice recognition: it's a heavy workload. So they are getting there, but we're now seeing the compromises and trade-offs coming into play.
Infrared5[^] get an automatic 2 point bonus for including two references to AC/DC. They have implemented a face tracking solution by handling perspective correction and depth analysis themselves, in C++, using actual mathematics. Bonus 5 points right there. They are tackling the immediate problems at hand with craft solutions, and focussing on perceptual computing rather than using perceptual computing as a bit of gravy.
Pete[^] 's posted a video of his app's progress and I need to ask him one small favour: show us you in the video, or more specifically, show the gestures you're using to control the app. He's also struggling through the Dark Forest Of Feature Trade-offs and is feeling that his app is becoming least PC focussed and more of a touch app with gestures.
This is not a bad thing at all. Samsung have implemented gesture controls not to save wear and tear on finger tips, but because sometimes you can't touch-swipe. If you're wearing gloves (medical, outside work, it's cold, etc) or have dirty hands (cooking, your 2 year old, you're a messy eater etc) then touch won't cut it, but Perceptual Computing provides that small push that gets over that barrier to interaction. You can again use your computer in a manner very similar to touch, without touching. Not a big thing, and something that you would quickly forget you were doing. And this, in my mind, is the perfect interface: you forget that you're doing it.
I think you're on the right track, Pete.
Eskil[^] has articulated this perfectly: "The goal of any user interface is to disappear" and he's not in the Dark Forest Of Feature Trade-offs, he's in the Swamp of Broken Promises. For him the SDK isn't there yet, not by a long shot. So he's doing what any programmer does and is rewriting chunks. I'm looking forward to seeing how he ties all of this up at the end.
Last but not least, Simian Squared[^] have also reached the epiphany about what gestures promise: a lazy interface that extends gestures. Perceptual computing promises way, WAY more than this, but at it's core it also offers very simple things that can be very powerful and helpful. There's no wads of virtual clay splattering the walls of their pottery room - in fact it looks remarkably clean - so I'm taking that as a sign of excellent progress.
The Code Project | Co-founder
Microsoft C++ MVP