For turning the human body into a game controller
Microsoft wowed with several creations over the past year—a better Bing, the Windows Phone 7 OS—but we're most impressed by what it destroyed: the old-fashioned remote control. Its revolutionary hands-free Kinect for the Xbox 360 console, which launched in November, uses an assortment of sensors to understand voice commands and read facial cues and physical gestures (a punch or a kick, for instance). It then responds accordingly on-screen (with, say, a video-game knockout). To date, Microsoft has sold at least 8 million Kinect consoles—more than enough to kick-start the Xbox's transformation into a full-fledged entertainment platform. Among the forthcoming features: content from Netflix and Hulu Plus, as well as avatars-only virtual worlds for Microsoft's 30 million Xbox Live subscribers.