Thursday, April 7, 2011

Talking with Your Body

On April Fools Day, Google announced a new feature called GMail Motion with the following:
The mouse and keyboard were invented before the Internet even existed. Since then, countless technological advancements have allowed for much more efficient human computer interaction. Why then do we continue to use outdated technology? Introducing Gmail Motion -- now you can control Gmail with your body.
I thought "This is dumb. Why would anybody want to stand up and jump around to do email".  When it finally clicked that this was a April Fools prank, I started thinking it was kinda funny but Google really could have taken it much further.

My first idea was that if they had linked it to people's web can and then told them they needed to train their Gmail Motion. They could make them do various poses in which the system took snap shots. At the end of the training session, when they clicked on the Activate GMail Motion button, it gave them the obligatory APRIL FOOLS and then play back an animation of their snapshots rearrange to some song making it look like they are doing a really goofy dance. It could have been hilarious.

I also thought it might be fun using the Motion Guide to translate a Lady Gaga or Micheal Jackson video to find out what they are really saying in their dances. But in the end i let it go.

Then I saw that Popular Science had an article Kinect Hack Makes Last Week's April Fool Prank Gmail Motion A Reality
A group of developers at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies hacked the Kinect (what else?) using software they already had from other projects and built a fully-functional Gmail Motion, which they call the Software Library Optimizing Obligatory Waving (SLOOW).
And course that got my juices flowing again and wondered what if you combine the GMail motion Hack, Motion Guide, and the translating dance moves into a new language, the American Dance Language (named after the American Sign Language (ASL)).  What Would it take?

First off, you would have to get some enterprising youths to come up with a suitable social vocabulary for teenagers communicate thru dance moves. You could make the vocabulary match the type of dance and as much as possible you could use existing jesters.  This could prove popular unto itself with cliques and localities developing their own dance dialect.  Also it might take favor among the def, in that it could serve as an extension of ASL on the dance floor.  But I digress, this is not what I think would be cool.

My idea would be to combine ADL with the Kinect GMail Motion software (SLOOW) and rig it up to translate dancers at a party or club.  To make it work you would probably need multiple kinects and I suspect it could take some pretty good processing to track several people at once. The easiest interface for such a system might be to have the display show a real-time video of the dance floor with the translate text displayed in text bubbles linked to the person dancing it, much like in games like WoW.

More challenging would be to permit dancers to individually select who they want to carry a conversation with.  This would require significantly tighter precision and 3D reasoning but it could probably be set to use a simple "point and wiggle" interface to select your subject.  The system would have to be able to track and know who everybody is (or at least those wanting to participate) and you would probably need some way to provide feedback so you know that your talking to the right person.

You might also be able to link in an external audience to permit people on smart phone who are not on the dance floor to hold conversation with the people on the dance floor. Ultimately you might be able to connect the dancers with their WoW or some other game characters and have talk and dance in the Game.

Interesting  image of people talking, flirting, and flaming with there bodies where a real life dance controls MMORPG dancing and talking..

If this sounds like a stupid idea it probably is.  I get these ideas more frequently than I should admit, but there fun to come up with even if they're a pain to try to capture. It probably comes from having more imagination than sense.  

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