Aha! It took a long time but I finally figured out that Kinect is useless. I blame having just woken up.
Gesture languages are just castrated forms of sign languages, which are full-fledged langugaes. And sign languages are useless for people who aren't deaf. So gesture languages are useless. QED. I've known that for years now.
Oh and they also make you look retarded, take a look at the photo of the three retards behind the conference table in Google's Gmail Motion for proof. Google seriously thinks this photo will help sell this piece of crapware. "more efficient and intuitive" my ass!
The problem is that it seemed Kinect had more. And it turns out the "more" bit, the part about moving stuff from device to device "with a flick of your fingers" can be done entirely without flicking your fingers.
All it requires is a good UI, one that provides an extensible spatio-visual field. So that your computer exists in a space represented on its monitor and other devices exist as extensions of that space. That's the basic conceptual mechanism underlying "moving stuff from device to device".
Note that this conceptual mechanism does not in any way rely on fingers or hand motions or body motions or "multi-touch" (ugh!) or anything of the kind. It can be achieved with the mouse, which is a perfectly usable pointing device.
A device far, far more sensitive than that crappy fucking piece of shit Kinect that requires you to move your hand 15 centimeters for a gesture. Seriously, what the fuck? Those ergonomics are atrocious!
You see, when you break things down at their conceptual level, you've got a conceptual mechanism + hardware, and those are independent. Kinect provides the hardware only. And this hardware sucks for ergonomic reasons.
If an input device like Kinect ever acquired sub-centimeter resolution then it would compete directly against the mouse and could be superior to it. But I predict that such an input device won't use (because it won't need) shitty gimmicks like gesture languages.
It's a similar analysis that reveals that touch screens absolutely suck for general computers and laptops.
It's another similar analysis that reveals multi-touch is useless. I mean for fuck's sake, in my design work I've come up with two pointers and am struggling to have any kind of justification to have more. I don't have any use for multi-touch.
It's another similar analysis that reveals that mouse buttons are useless so mice should really have zero buttons. Because the mouse can never support as many buttons as the keyboard (ergonomics) and the keyboard is where buttons belong (conceptually)!
The basic problem with input devices is this:
- you've got your discrete events device - the keyboard provides zero dimensional input
- you've got your continuous 2D device - the mouse provides 2 dimensional input
Adding buttons to mice doesn't improve them because they shouldn't have any buttons at all. Mice shouldn't generate discrete events at all! It is a defect in UI programmers' imaginations that has made users associate so-called "mouse events" with mice.
Laser mice are a great change to mice hardware but they don't change what the mice does conceptually so it's evolutionary, not revolutionary, to users. To hardware designers, laser mice are of course revolutionary.
Multi-touch is having 2 or 3 times the already existing continuous 2D device. And you can achieve 90% of the benefits of that by having an easy way to switch off between multiple pointers. Chasing that remaining 10% is just not worth the effort - you end up "needing" it only for gimmicks.
Touch screens are just 2D continuous input devices with horrible ergonomics. Interesting in theory, useless in practice. You need something as bizarre as the iPad where the proportion of input to output activity is miniscule (eg, restricted to flipping pages) to make touchscreens viable.
1D continuous input is ... provided by the scroll wheel. Hence that is revolutionary from the user's point of view! So now we have in the present situation
- a 0D input device - the keyboard
- a 1D input device - the wheel
- a 2D input device - the mouse
What the fuck more do we need?
The False Need For 3D
In certain rarefied applications, we might desire a genuinely 3D input device. These (eg, ringmouse) haven't panned out because of technological problems with resolution. Hmm, poor resolution, does that sound familiar?
The bigger problem with them is that their applicability is extremely limited. Because the visual cortex of homo sapiens sapiens isn't 3D! It's strictly 2+1D, like a topographical map or bitmap. Which is exactly what the wheelmouse provides!
Except for a few freaks, human brains just don't process 3D data. We don't see in 3D (you can't see the inside of a box and its outside simultaneously), you don't think in 3D, you don't visualize in 3D (go ahead, try to visualize all sides of a solid box at the same time), you do nothing in 3D except move your body. You do everything in 2+1D.
Is it any wonder then that anyone wanting to push 3D input devices resorts to proprioception? To moving around and dancing with your body? Even though moving around your body has fuck all to do with any computer game or software application out there? Yeah yeah, it looks great. And you know what? Fucking useless!
Look at the video of Kinect users in the first article I linked to. Do you see any game or application in the video? No. Because the peddlers of this tech couldn't imagine anyone actually using it for anything exciting so they didn't bother to make a rigged demo. It's exactly like I said - it looks great but it's fucking useless.
The challenge for input hardware designers is that input hardware is already perfect. Excepting only that slanted QWERTY keyboards are fucking horrible and Kinesis contoured keyboards are vastly superior. Well, that's a legacy problem and a patent problem. The patent may have expired but it's been there holding up progress for a long time.
And while I'm at it, 3D output hardware (holograms and phased array optics) are also useless for individual users. They only come into their own in holodecks where multiple users can interact. Otherwise, virtual retinal display is plenty good enough. Or I suppose if you want to drive what the user sees with natural head motion without inducing nausea.
Like touchscreens, 3D output hardware is of limited applicability. Great when you absolutely need it, terrible most of the time. Like automatic kitty lasers, 3D input hardware is completely fucking useless. We don't really need 3D because the human brain just doesn't process it. We need inspired use of 2+1D. And this isn't going to take better technology but better systems designers. Unfortunately, we're pretty good at the former and terrible at the latter.