Tag Archives: kinect

Weekly news round up 2 November 2017

Here’s a summary of interesting stories I’ve seen over the last week. I try to concentrate on the stories which aren’t necessarily mainstream.


There might be fewer [free] ATMs in the UK soon. Link, the banking organisations who fund 70,000 UK-based, free UK cash machines, want to cut their contributions by 20%. https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/31276/link-plans-could-slash-number-of-free-atms

McKinsey wrote a report about banks needing to create their own platforms and new business models as Alibaba, Amazon and Google start competing with them. McKinsey said that banks need to capitalise on their consumer trust and wealth of data. I agree and wrote a comment on the article which then spawned an online debate. https://www.finextra.com/news/fullstory.aspx?newsitemid=31251 Continue reading Weekly news round up 2 November 2017

2012 favourites

For the last couple of years (2011 and 2010) I’ve listed my highlights of the previous year. Continuing the tradition, here are the highlights of 2012.

Favourite new gadget

iPlayer on the Xbox is simply superb. You don’t need the handset at all – just switch on the Xbox, use Kinect to fire up the iPlayer app and choose a programme, and then it’s voice activated from then on. It’s also the only way to watch programmes in HD on iPlayer.

Battlefield 3 has been my favourite game of the year so far, although I haven’t played the latest Call of Duty Black Ops 2 yet.

I installed Windows 8 at the start of the year on a Virtual PC and liked it a lot. Some of the staff at Endava are using it as their primary operating system. I haven’t done that yet because I haven’t had the time to spend a couple of days transferring everything from Windows 7 to 8 – backing up, restoring and all that.

However I have moved over to Office 2013. It’s super stable (I’m still using the Preview release)and there’s a few new features (such as opening and working in PDF documents) and it’s just ‘nicer’ to use.

Favourite book

I started reading Bear Grylls’ autobiography Mud, Sweat & Tears, and couldn’t put the thing down. I don’t read particularly quickly, but three days after picking it up I’d finished it. It’s one of those books where you wish it was longer. Bear has had a remarkable journey so far, and I share some of his values – the outdoors and Scouts being prime examples. Definitely worth a read.

Chris Hoy’s autobiography was also enjoyable. I received some feedback about last year’s favourites all relating to cycling, so I won’t go into any more detail about the book here!

Favourite iPhone app

Continuing the don’t-mention-cycling theme, Strava is my favourite app of the year. It’s brilliant. Strava records all your cycle journeys, split’s them into ‘segments’ such as a stretch of a single road, or even a mile long set of roads, and then compares all the cyclists (or runners) who have travelled that segment. It turns your commute and weekend rides into an addictive competition.

After Apple completely messed up maps, there was a void left with free, decent, mapping apps and after my summer holiday to Israel where I found M8, it’s my favourite app for car journeys.

Favourite award

I’m truly honoured to have won Sitecore Site of the Year for the second year running. This year’s award went to The Open, and I know how hard the team at Endava work on the site both year-round, and during the event. A huge well done to all the team.


Steve Ballmer showcasing Kinect

One of my favourite pieces of technology is Kinect. Until you’ve used it, it’s difficult to believe that this level of technology exists, let alone for under $200.

My preferred BBC iPlayer device is the XBox – it’s voice controlled, easily the nicest menu structure to use, and has HD – but most importantly, it works on my TV and I still don’t like watching long formats on my laptop or desktop.

Windows 8 has been released, and I’m suspicious of it’s heavy reliance on touch screens. My monitors at work and home are already dirty enough, and I try not to touch the screens already.

If I had to swipe a web page with my fingers after eating a sandwich and bag of crisps, it would be revolting!

I don’t know how I originally missed this video of Steve Ballmer and the Kinect team demonstrating features which are already live, but it gives some further insight into the future of entertainment, whether it’s video games or television or work devices – the term PC doesn’t seem correct in this context.

Why Publishers and Broadcasters need to change

It’s been absolutely crazy busy at work for the last few weeks, mainly on the new business front. I’d like to add this is a report, not a criticism. Anyway, when it gets this busy at work I often remember Bill Gates’ book The Road Ahead where he discusses how future business will all be conducted by electronic systems exchanging data with each other.

The truth has turned out to be quite the opposite – customers want ever increasing levels of detail before signing up to a product or service.

I did get a chance last week to go to an interesting technology event run by Vizrt. The event was aimed at their large publisher and broadcaster customers – many of the broadsheets and tabloids use their system (or similar competitors) for creating content for their newspapers or TV news snippets. We were there because we work with some large publishers, integrating their systems together.

One of the speakers at the event was Morten Holst who is a Product Strategy Manager for Vizrt, and raised some interesting points which are paraphrased below.

Morten’s first point was to wake up the audience with the following video:

His point was that whilst the video is amusing – a baby who knows the iPad interface so well that she can’t use a paper magazine, and even checks her finger to see if it’s her finger that’s broken – this baby is going to be a consumer in ten years. Publishers and broadcasters need to wake up and realise their consumers are changing very quickly.

His next demonstration was a comparison of a web site 10 years ago and nowadays. I’ve used the BBC News website as an example below.



Look at the two homepages for a few seconds, and you can see many similarities. In fairness, over the ten years, not a huge amount has changed.

I’m not particularly targeting the BBC (it’s still my favourite news site). The point here is that publishing hasn’t actually changed very much in 10 years.

Now look at another entertainment industry over the last ten years. Look at the video below – if you can, try to watch it in HD.

Morten’s point here is that 10 years ago these kinds of graphics and sound effects were considered motion picture quality. Now they are considered the acceptable standard of computer games – this year’s Battlefield 3 (the video above), FIFA 12 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 are good examples.

The video games industry has recognised a number of times that it needs to push the boundaries of user interfaces, presentation and design – think of an Xbox 360, the revolutionary Wii controller, then the revolutionary Kinect controller. To put that into perspective, the Xbox and Wii were launched within the last 6 years.

His final point was about comparing printed content to digital content. If you read paper magazines, the photography is usually outstanding – full, double page and high quality. That same image will be shown as a 2 inch square on the web, and won’t get a second glance.

The iPad is encouraging publisher’s to think more creatively, by designing beautiful interfaces. In truth there’s no reason the iPad can encourage creativity and a web browser can’t. However the iPad has been disruptive enough in digital terms to make editors want to push the boundaries.

So, on to the future, Morten encouraged the audience to start pushing the boundaries, to stop doing things the same way because that’s how they’d always been done. The functionality has moved on enormously, yet the editors aren’t using the new features, yet.

Amazing technology in the living room


Last weekend we bought an Xbox Kinect at home. I have a personality trait whereby I get really excited about technology only for it to rapidly degrade after a few days. So I decided not to write this review any sooner for fear of it being written with a bit too much passion and not enough objectivity.

A week after plugging in the Kinect controller, I can report that’s it’s still AMAZING. The technology still feels futuristic. Picking up an iPhone with it’s two year old pinching and stretch controls feels ancient. Using a mouse or a keyboard feels archaic.

Gesturing is the way forward.

The kids (ranging from 4 to 9 years old) love it and find it intuitive. Adults find it intuitive, although I’ve yet to see an adult that doesn’t sit (or for that matter, stand) with their jaws open finding it difficult to appreciate that the television is responding to body movements.

Many reviewers compare the Kinect to the Wii, because they are the two consoles where players need to be active or stand up to play most games. The comparison is ridiculous. The graphics and playability on the Xbox Kinect games are as polished, clear and fast as the rest of the Xbox titles compared to the Wii which feels like it’s still using the graphics chips from an 1980s Atari console.

However the part that most of our visitors like the most about the Kinect is being able to control the main Xbox menu, by sweeping icons to the left and right and selecting them on the screen just like in Minority Report.

To select a menu, the user puts your left arm at 45 degrees down becomes second nature in much the same way as a right mouse click on a PC felt odd a decade ago but is now automatic.

If a different user stands up Kinect will recognise them if they have a profile on the box using face recognition.

Microsoft have got the Kinect completely right. Installing it on my old Xbox (the original white one) was painfree. I’ve never opened a manual for it. The kids got it. Adults get it. Gestures are the way of the future.

I also bought a new family PC for the home as well after the last one died. For a while, we considered getting a Dell with a touch screen for two reasons. One is that it looks nice without complex wires, and the second is that its a large touch screen. However I’ve never seen the point of a touch screen on a PC – why do you want to press the X to close a window and get a fingerprint on the screen when it’s quicker and cleaner to press Alt+F4 (and you still think the 45 degree arm salute is unobvious?!) or move and then press the mouse.

I don’t get PCs with touch screens, but if you could gesture with your hand to quickly close a window, or click your fingers to open a favourite application, that is the future.

The Kinect is an amazing piece of technology, and the fact it costs about £150 and sits in your living room is testament to consumer power forcing companies to create such viable mass consumer devices. I just can’t wait until I’m controlling everything in the house with gestures.

Hoping bad luck only come in 3s


They say bad luck comes in threes – well the three came thick and fast this week in the Howard household.

We bought a dog from the RSPCA rescue centre in Peterborough 5 weeks ago and on Friday it developed a rare form of pneumonia and spent three nights in hospital at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals in South Mimms. Lexi (that’s the dog) is on the mend at the moment, however we suspect it will take a few more weeks before she’s back to her normal self. The reason I started off with Lexi’s background is because she’s still within the first ‘no claim’ fortnight of pet insurance…

The next thing that went wrong is the family computer. We all share a single computer and use different accounts to log in.  Frustratingly I (promise) was planning to do a full backup over the Christmas break, however we had a physical hard drive error on Wednesday, and everything on the hard drive has gone. I bought a licence of the SysTweaks Advanced Disk Recovery to run on my work laptop over the holidays. ADR took 2 days to do a ‘Deep Scan’, then a few hours to restore the files I selected. All (100%) of those files are corrupted and can’t be opened. It’s been a very frustrating experience. And now, the hard drive won’t even be recognised by my work laptop.

What has been interesting out of this experience is that the kids are totally unaffected – all of their work is stored on a variety of websites (aka ‘the cloud’). A lot of my wife and I’s ‘stuff’ like photos are also in the cloud at various places (at least, the good photos). It’s some of the smaller stuff like wedding speeches that are permanently gone. I think I will take out a Spotify subscription in the new year (after paying off the vet bills and a replacement PC) because whilst we ripped all of our CDs last year on to the computer, when the hard drive went, I just thought it wasn’t a problem because they’ll all be on Spotify anyway.

The third piece of bad luck happened when playing my son on the (3 year old) XBox 360 yesterday and the game paused. No response. Switched the console off and on – and a three quarter red ring came on the power button. I’ve heard about ‘the red ring of death’, and we have now succumb to it. We need a new XBox.

Needless to say (but I’m quite depressed so I’ll say it), it’s been quite an expensive week. The vet bills alone could buy a family car, the new family PC will be my wife’s opportunity to finally get rid of our old CRT monitor, and the XBox may be an opportunity to get Kinect…

Photo courtesy of tomasland.