"Technology," says Microsoft's Alex Kipman, "is making us less human."
Specifically, it's too hard to learn. Instead, Kipman asks, "What if technology had to learn you?"
As director of incubation for Microsoft's console group, Kipman led the development of Kinect, the new motion-control system for the 5-year-old Xbox 360. Kinect differs from its competition, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation Move, in one major respect: It uses no controller whatsoever.
"The best controller is no controller," says Kipman. "The best menu is no menu."
Kinect doesn't quite achieve that goal; you still have to navigate menus before you get to the good stuff. But you don't have to pick up a controller to start it up. Instead, a device parked near your TV reads your gestures, hears your voice and identifies you by your facial features.
The Kinect launch lineup features the kind of physical challenges already familiar to Wii owners: sports, exercise, dancing, high-energy party games. But what does it have to offer the hardcore Xbox player who enjoys a more immersive, brain-stimulating adventure?
Kipman points to some of the titles that have been announced for 2011: "Steel Battalion Heavy Armor," a futuristic shooter; "Project Draco," a dragon-flight simulator; and "Haunt," a haunted-house mystery.
The new system's launch is "the beginning of a journey," Kipman says. "The perfect experience is the one we haven't come up with yet."