MIX11 Day 2: Phone Innovation, Standards and Kinect for Everyone

A Kinect for everyone

A tag for tracking: #ms_mix11_svwe

Keynotes at conferences can be hit and miss at times. You have to know your audience, both what they want and how they want it served, your timing has to be exactly right and there has to be a strong balance between content and humour. All of these points were achieved, if not to perfection than at least to a level over and above what I’ve seen before today. And that’s not just because every attendee at MIX11 this year gets to walk away with a Kinect and the promise of tools to build Kinect applications for the PC in the near future.

The first 2/3 of the day 2 keynote at MIX11 was, not surprisingly, focussed on the future of Windows Phone 7 and Silverlight (not necessarily connected). Microsoft’s reboot in the phone market has really started to take off and because of this there is now a larger push than ever to roll out new features and capabilities for developers to build on and users to use. I’m not a phone developer so this is not technically interesting to me, but as a phone user I can say that what is being introduced in the next Windows Phone 7 update, code named “Mango” for some unknown reason, will help developers create better user experiences and more interesting applications for the phone and will provide the end user with a smoother and more intuitive experience. Both of which are great.

When it comes to Silverlight and the future Silverlight 5 release there are also great things on the way that will result in more immersive user experiences and capabilities.
But for me it was the last 3rd of the keynote that stood out. It was dedicated to Kinect on Windows. Kinect is, or rather was, a tool created to facilitate a more immersive and controller less gaming experience, but it didn’t take long for developers to realize that the true potential of the little weird bar lay not in gaming but in interaction with data in general. For my own experience Chris and I have been talking about what Kinect would do for PhotoPivot.com for some time but we’re not the only ones. And when the devices hit the street developers immediately started exploring ways of opening them up to develop new PC based applications. In response to this Microsoft is now set to release developer tools so that everyone can build Kinect based applications for Windows, which means the home computer. This is a game changer.

On stage there were demos of a Kinect controlled reclining chair, a helmet mounted Kinect used to help blind people navigate and a universal telescope. But that’s just scratching the surface. The Kinect not only makes your entire body an input device but also has the capability of taking voice commands meaning with the right application in the background it can do away with any other user interface. I can’t quite put into words how exciting this is. And to kick off the innovation every attendee at the conference got their very own Kinect to take home. Pretty cool. So expect an avalanche of crazy new user experiences using the Kinect once the developer tools are released in May.

Personally what stood out on this second day of MIX11 was the focus on open standards and web standards in general. Yes, there were tons of sessions on Windows Phone 7, Azure, .NET and other Microsoft-centric topics, but there were also a large variety of sessions on general topics like the new canvas tag in HTML5, the UX lightning series and a talk about the Web Standards Sherpa site by the Web Standards Project.

Of these I’d say the Web Standards Sherpa talk is a must-see for anyone working in the web world. Web standards are what binds us together and it’s more important than ever to keep them in focus.

Check out my continuously updated photostream from MIX11 on Flickr.