The technology is brilliant, but..

I am sure that I am not the only person working in educational technology to see what I think is a brilliant technology fail, something that does something you’ve never seen before or fundamentally changes how you see the world. Then 6 Months later it closes because it didn’t do the job it was supposed to do well enough.

I write many posts about failure. It is not a bad thing to learn from mistakes and I wonder why we are quick to often to sweep them under the carpet. With technology I’m not always sure there is anything wrong with the product, a technology is really impressive but it just didn’t work out. Perhaps a competing product will do the same thing successfully in 5 years time.

Many of us who play games are currently eyeing up what are known as ‘next generation’ consoles. The question for us is which console to buy and when, should we get a Wii U, PS4 or Xbox One. Perhaps those looking to blow a student loan will take a combination of them? Each of the consoles has a unique selling point, a selling point that is a technical product that the developing companies have poured a lot of money in to. Wii U has like a tablet like control system, the PS4 is looking to move into streaming services and the Xbox One has Kinect.

If you look at all the technologies in the next generation consoles there is no doubt that they are all amazing, however on a technical level the Kinect blows me away the most. For those who don’t know, the Kinect is a range camera that can pick up specific gestures. It the combination of lots of initiative hardware and software instances, it has 3D scanning techniques, infrared, multi-array microphones, RGB cameras, voice recognition, facial recognition. It can track users in different light or even part of their body is hidden. It is very impressive when you tell your Xbox (through voice commands) to play a game, and then the Xbox (through facial recognition) loads your profile and saved options, all before you’ve lifted a finger. It’s like playing with a computer from the future. While it must have cost a lots of money in R&D Microsoft swear by it that much that technology is cheap to the end user. I got my original Kinect for £20 second hand, the newer one for the new Xbox bumps the price of the console up by around £100.

Anybody following the next generation of consoles will know something else about this impressive piece of kit, that yesterday it had effectively been canned. Microsoft knew the technology was good and decided to sell it with their Xbox One, now they have decided to release a cheaper Xbox One without the technology, putting it on par on price as its rival the PS4.

Many news sources have reported the fans are outraged, this effectively means that not every Xbox One owner will have a Kinect, which means the games won’t have to support it, and they think games should have to support it because the technology is brilliant and integral to the experience.

The truth is that the technology is brilliant, I was blown away by just how amazing it was when I got one for £20. I plugged it in to my Xbox and was amazed by the 3D tracking and gesture tracking. I bought a few games for it, played them once, now the Kinect collects dust. While the technology is wonderful the games are boring, there are no games I’ve played with the Kinect that I’ve actually had fun with and to be honest it just gets in the way. I don’t want to stand up waving my hands when I play a game and judging by sales figures of Kinect games neither does anybody else.

The technology was good, it just didn’t work out this time in this instance. It didn’t work out for what people wanted from their games machines. They’d rather save the £100 and not have the functionality. So what was a incredible piece of kit has become a failure, Microsoft pushed it hard because of all the R&D resources that went in to it, but it looks like now they might just finally let go.

It’s a failure for Microsoft’s Xbox One, but I’ve still seen some really cool uses of it. There are some really cool artists doing things with 3D images they have taken with the Kinect. Some people did cool stuff with the Kinect and Oculus Rift. I’m there are lots of other things we could do with cheap 3D motion sensors, I wonder how we could use it with 3D printing.

I’m really hoping it sees another life, free it from the reigns of gaming and Windows only drivers. It fully depends on Microsoft, is it too much of a failure to be repackaged and set free? I wonder if there is anything in educational technology that would be better set free?

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