Sunday, April 24, 2011

Not so foolish anymore..

Chaucer’s celebrated ‘Canterbury tales’ published in 1392 makes reference to April 1st and its association as being the April Fool or All-Fools Day. This is that month of the year and the tradition has shown no respite when friends and relatives pull tricks of jokes and make fool of us on that day. When these tricks reach the level where ones’ tricks makes a fool of many, it becomes even more interesting and one of the leaders in this field has been Google. Did you hear about Google Motion? If not, I give a brief below. They published this article on their blog at 12:01 AM on 1st April and was truly their joke on their social network. Google wrote thus:

“In 1874 the QWERTY keyboard was invented. In 1963, the world was introduced to the mouse. Some 50 years later, we’ve seen the advent of microprocessors, high resolution webcams, and spatial tracking technology. But all the while we’ve continued to use outdated technology to interact with devices. Why?

This is a question that we’ve been thinking about a lot at Google, and we’re excited to introduce our first attempts at next generation human computer interaction: Gmail Motion. Gmail Motion allows you to control Gmail — composing and replying to messages — using your body.

To use Gmail Motion, you’ll need a computer with a built-in webcam. Once you enable Gmail Motion from the Settings page, Gmail will enable your webcam when you sign in and automatically recognize any one of the detected movements via a spatial tracking algorithm. We designed the movements to be easy and intuitive to perform and consulted with top experts in kinestetics and body movement in devising them.

We’ve been testing Gmail Motion with Googlers over the last few months and have been really excited about the feedback we’ve been hearing. We’ve also done some internal tests to measure productivity improvements and found an average 14% increase in email composition speed and12% reduction in average time in inbox. With Gmail Motion, Googlers were able to get more done and get in and out of their inboxes more quickly.

To use Gmail Motion, you’ll need the latest version of Google Chrome or Firefox 3.5+ and a built-in webcam. If it’s not already enabled on your account, sit tight — we’ll be making it available to everyone over the next day or so.”

You might ask what is different this year? Google and other technology companies play this prank every 1st of April and what relevance has this to the title ‘not so foolish’ ? They had after all fooled the world through their in-depth video that swinging a first backhand in the air would allow you to reply to the message, swinging two-fists would do a reply-all, and licking your hand and tapping the knee would send the email.

What is not so foolish? You mean, can this not be done? Well here is some development. Inspired by the Google blog, hackers at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies wanted to make it a reality! Towards this, a group of developers took Microsoft Kinect sensor and some software they had done for previous projects; and tied them together to create a fully working prototype of Google Motion! This was their response to the Google blog:

“This morning, Google introduced Gmail Motion, allowing users to control Gmail using gestures and body movement. However, for whatever reason, their application doesn’t appear to work. So, we demonstrate our solution — the Software Library Optimizing Obligatory Waving (SLOOW) — and show how it can be used with a Microsoft Kinect sensor to control Gmail using the gestures described by Google.”

While this whole episode was funny (or foolish), what it brings out are the technological advances in sensors and image processing – that what we think is fantasy can become real in no time. So, the bar for being creative has been raised significantly, for it to remain a fantasy for a while, otherwise folks watch out, technology will catch up in no time!

1 comment:

  1. In the research labs of my mind, I am thinking of next generation email not just on the composing end but on the readers end. I am working on a prototype application in which when I have written hug in my email and when my wife and kids reads they will also feel the hug, need to develop technology which is not just one sided :)