I never really thought much about Microsoft’s Kinect until I saw what hackers were doing with it. A story in the New York Times outlines how a designer and senior editor at Make magazine posted a $3000 bounty for the first person to post an open-source hack of the Kinect interface. Huzzah! In fact, I’m still not that impressed with it — 3D drawings are cool, but will they help me teach English? — but I’m thrilled that hackers big and small are poking around under the hood.
Interestingly, Johnny Chung Lee, who became famous for his TED talk where he described hacking a Wiimote to act like an interactive whiteboard, is involved in the development of Kinect. Microsoft were so impressed with his skills on the Wii-based IWB and other projects they hired him. He is reportedly very happy to see hackers taking on Kinect in the way he took on Wii a couple of years ago. If a hacker can squeeze an interactive whiteboard out of a $40 Wiimote, what will come out of the $150 Kinect system?
Will this technology help us teach ESL and EFL? It’s not easy to see how, at least not immediately. But prepare for a giant step forward in how we interface with computers in the next few years. Interactive whiteboards are just the beginning. You can always show your students this video and ask them to predict the future (in English).