Gesture Control Is The New 3D
June 25, 2014

Gesture Control Is The New 3D

Earlier this month, Microsoft essentially “unplugged” the Kinect controller from its Xbox One video game system. Microsoft introduced a version of the Xbox One without the motion control Kinect built in and dropped the price to $399. That put it on par with Sony‘s PlayStation 4 — which doesn’t come with the Move controller. Sony instead offered its motion controller as an add-on. The move may have been enough to give Sony an early lead when both the PS4 and Xbox One were launched last November. To date, the PS4 has exceeded sales of seven million units to Xbox One’s five million.

The fact that Microsoft has pulled the plug on Kinect could mean the end of the line for motion control because honestly, what developers will want to create two versions of a game or even deal with the supposed “benefits” of motion control?

Sure, certain dance games will likely continue to be developed — but those will be akin to the music-based games that required very specific music controllers, including guitars, drums and even keyboards. Part of the reason the musical genre may have “left the building” like Elvis is that it was often just more of the same. The controllers, meanwhile, didn’t have much use beyond those specifically for rocking out in the living room.

In fairness, the Kinect offered more, but instead of being the next big thing in video games, it has essentially joined 3D as the next big technology that became the next big disappointment.

Gesture controls were supposed to be a natural extension of touchscreens by providing “natural computing,” which‘s John R. Quain called “a combination of speech recognition and gesture recognition software.”

The Kinect very much fit this bill, as it could recognize movement and speech. Perhaps for some applications it made sense — I mean, how many times have I yelled at video games while playing? Too many to count, I’m sure.

The problem is that most of the time I didn’t expect the game to respond. Many of the gestures I made — which are likely the same ones made by many frustrated gamers — aren’t something the Kinect could understand either.

Motion control may seem like a “natural,” but natural computing in actuality isn’t all that natural for most of us. We need to be trained to use those gestures properly.

The truth is that the mouse/keyboard combo continues to work for the desktop PC, and despite the introduction of touchscreen-compatible monitors, what we have works. Tablets are another story and here the touchscreen makes sense.

Gesture doesn’t make sense in the home so much because few of us actually sit and just watch TV these days. Imagine the sports fan suddenly raising his/her arms and accidentally changing the channel!

This is why the Google had to put sales of the Nest on hold for a while. The smoke and carbon monoxide detector is back on the market, but the gesture controls have been removed. This is because it was possible for users to accidentally wave and turn off the unit!

Gestures are so natural, we can’t help but make them, and for now gesture controls are more a gimmick than practical — almost akin to the 1980s era “Clapper,” which provided a way for lazy people to turn off the lights.

So gestures are the new 3D. A technology that was promised to be a game changer, but in the end found itself benched instead. The reason is that game-changing technology comes about through actual innovation, not gimmicks. 3D was a gimmick that was marketed as a gimmick in the 1950s in movies — and was actually a way to get people to go to the movies as TV invaded the home. It didn’t catch on because bulky glasses were required and it did little to advance the story.

In 2009, 3D made a comeback (not the first) and it was little more than a gimmick at the movies and on TV. While the London Summer Olympics in 2012 looked good in 3D, the technology didn’t add much. 3D didn’t become the next evolution of HDTV. It remained a gimmick instead.

Thus, motion control, which arrived around the same time as 3D, is in good company. It will remain a niche, but not much more.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on,,, and Peter is a regular writer for

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