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Windows 8 touch revolution

The release of Windows 8 – Microsoft’s latest operating system – has set in motion a game changing touch input revolution. Karen McCandless speaks to Ralph Rio, research director, ARC Advisory Group, to find out more

With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has released what is possibly its most innovative operating system to date. Windows 8 has been touch optimised across not just smartphones and tablets but also the traditional desktop PC. It provides native support for stereoscopic 3D (S3D) applications. Stereoscopic 3D refers to visualisation and navigation using 3D space where objects in front appear closer than those in back, providing visual depth perception. It is this support of S3D that Ralph Rio, research director, ARC Advisory Group believes will provide disruptive innovation in the industry, as well as present a wealth of opportunities for commercial application developers.

When combined with S3D, the NUI will create the next disruption in the user interface market

Ralph Rio, ARC Advisory Group
“Microsoft has designed Windows 8 so you can still use a mouse, but that’s not the ideal input method for 3D applications,” says Rio. “With the latest Microsoft Kinect SDK for commercial and industrial application deployment providing support forWindows 8, a new class of applications will emerge that will employ a natural user interface (NUI). When combined with S3D, the NUI will create the next disruption in the user interface market.”

While many have been predicting that the release of the Windows 8 will mean the death of the PC, Rio thinks that PC applications will actually transform to S3D and that Kinect will provide the future mouse for navigating these 3D applications.

“While many users will access apps on tablets and smartphones, there will be another class of more intensive 3D apps that need more compute power and continue to run on a desktop,” says Rio. “People are currently grounded in the 2D world but imagine the improvements in user experience you will get when these apps are rendered in 3D. An example from the consumer world is when you’re designing a kitchen. With an S3D NUI experience, you will be able to manipulate the 3D model kitchen with your hands, opening cupboards and drawers and generally getting a better sense of what that kitchen would be like in real life.”

Another example, but this time in the commercial arena, is a maintenance technician working in an industrial plant. The technician may be unfamiliar with how to repair a particular device or piece of equipment. But with a 3D application and Kinect’s NUI, the employee can manipulate the part with his hands to un-assemble it and put it back together again. Another application could include a 3D simulator for operator training or product development.

Rio believes that in the next three to four years companieswill start usingKinect for 3Dapplications but that the adoption of 3D input in the next few years will likely take place in stages. “Companies currently have a 2D graphical user interface and the first stage in their migration path will be to a swipe interface on a 2D screen like the current input on a smartphone or tablet. This will then move to 3D gesture controls on a 2D screen before moving to the final stage of 3Dgesture controls on a 3D screen where the user is wearing 3D glasses.”

Leading software suppliers in the manufacturing space have already begun to embrace this concept. ICONICS has been showcasing its Genesis64 HMI/SCADA application for the plant floor on Microsoft Kinect at various tradeshows. And at the 2012 IFS World Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, David Anderson, director of IFS Labs, provided a demo of its IFS Customer 360 View concept hub in a 3D environment using 3D glasses and Microsoft Kinect.

Windows 8’s support of S3D combined with the innovative gesture control functionality of Kinect provides a massive opportunity for early adopters such as ICONICS and IFS to develop the commercial and industrial applications of future, while becoming the new market leaders and driving the transformation to 3D.

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