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Of Macs, Xbox Kinect, FaceTime cameras and gesture-based controls…

At the “Back to the Mac” event on Oct. 20, Apple Steve Jobs explained why there are no plans for Macs with touchscreens: touch interfaces don’t feel right in a vertical plane and you don’t want to touch your iMac’s screen. This means trackpads and the Magic Mouse are the interfaces for the future Mac OS X/iOS integration. Beyond that, I think Apple might take a lesson from the Xbox and its new Kinect technology.

Kinect is a motion control system for the game console. It can can sense and respond to users’ body motions as well as their voices. Based around a webcam-style add-on peripheral for the Xbox 360, it enables users to control and interact with the console without a game controller. Instead they use gestures, spoken commands and/or objects and images.

Kinect responds to how you move. If you have to kick in a game, you kick. If you have to jump in a game, you jump.

What’s more, Kinect is designed to respond to the sound of your voice. Just say “Xbox” to reveal a series of voice commands. You’ll be able to do things such as control HD movies with the sound of your voice — and no remote control.

I haven’t used a Kinect yet, so can’t attest to how well it works. But let’s give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt (which can be difficult, I know) and imagine that it works. And let’s imagine Apple developing its own motion control system that works with the iSight/FaceTime camera on Apple’s Macs and Cinema Displays.

The result would be the ability — at least in theory — to control your Mac and accomplish chores on it — with gesture-based technology. This isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. But I’ll be surprised if Apple isn’t working on something along these lines.

— Dennis Sellers

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