Microsoft’s research lab impressed the technorati with its E3 Xbox reveal of Project Natal & Milo. It debuted earlier today and presents so many interesting possibilities for a wide variety of applications that it is hard to know where to begin.
Since education seems a fruitful crossover application, imagine for a moment a perfectly programmed 4th grade math teacher with an AI engine that learns student weaknesses and can teach/tutor individuals privately based on perceived needs resulting from student/teacher interactions. The video makes a point of noting that the human interlocutor experiences immersion and steps into the simulated technological reality via the attached camera. From a phenomenological standpoint, this is a huge extension of the experience Heidegger termed being-in-the-world.
Entertainment Weekly’s John Young makes the following claim: “With inventions such as Natal, we’re quickly approaching a future in which humans can partake in a virtual experience that’s nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.” Though the Milo application is impressive, it cannot actually be confused or equivocated with the real. In brief, it lacks a textural element and the interaction does not seem spontaneous insofar as developers will constrain and control the possible sets of interactions.
Please do not misread my view. Gestural computing is a huge step in making the user experience more natural and less technological. To their credit Microsoft seems to have done a nice job of building in rich immersion for human/computer interaction. Nevertheless, we cannot discuss just any topic with Milo or ask him for random information. The possibilities are scripted in Milo’s database. His parameters are always defined and we cannot share spontaneous information that he does not already “understand” as a result of great AI programming. Milo is a very sweet, technologically impressive programmed boy, not at all easily confused with a real 10 year old.
See this impressive, but limited simulation for yourself: