Creating a device that turns anyone into a human game controller for the Xbox began with one surprising task, says Alex Kipman: "I had to get wicked, wicked smart people to assume stupidity from day one." The Brazilian-born director of incubation and his team needed to account for the near-infinite ways ("10 to the 23rd," he estimates) that people look, speak, and move. Since its release in November, Kinect—which consists of a depth sensor, microphones, and a motion camera tracking 20 points on the body in three-dimensional space—has inspired not only sales (some 10 million units) but also excitement among tinkerers who will soon have a Kinect software-development kit to advance their pet projects in, say, robotics or 3-D mapping. "This is a new era," says Kipman, "and it's going to require a ton of pioneering, a ton of innovation, and a ton of incubation. That's not going to happen all within Microsoft."
What does your typical day look like?
7:00 to 9:00 a.m.: prep for opening Keynote of Imagine Cup
9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Create
12:30 to 1:00 p.m.: Travel time
1:00 to 2:30 p.m.: Lunch with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer
2:30 to 3:00 p.m.: Travel time
3:00 to 4:00 p.m.: Phone sync with NASA JPL
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.: Meeting - Daily heartbeat for team
5:00 to 6:00 p.m.: Design Critique on secret project A
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.: Brainstorm / working design session for project B
8:00 to 10:00 p.m.: Create
10:00 to done: Catch up on email and other "daily tax" items
Kipman explains how Kinect's motion controller turns your body into a joystick.
Software is the only art form in existence that is not bound by the confines of physics. You are only ever bound and constrained by lack of imagination. I love that!
What conference or gathering do you find most inspiring?
Burning Man. I have gone for many years. Met the most inspiring people, art and environment and it's about as cleansing creatively as you can get. Few things in life give you an opportunity to leave everything behind and go back to a primitive, analog and non-technologic state. This is a source of creativity like no other.