Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kinect, Robots, & Middle Class Extinction, Oh My!

This is "Kinect". It sees in 3D. It's going to take our jobs.
Actually, that's not entirely true. If you're reading this, you're either a pretty big geek, or very close friends with one - either way, that probably means your job is safe. It's the job of your taxi driver, your dry cleaner, your bar tender, your garbage collector, your librarian, and your maid that's going away. More on that in a second - back to Kinect.

Kinect is an accessory for the "xbox 360" gaming console. It allows you to interact with video games by simply moving (rather than using a controller). It has two cameras and four microphones that watch and listen as you move.

A simplified illustration of the parallax of an object against a distant background due to a perspective shift. When viewed from "Viewpoint A", the object appears to be in front of the blue square. When the viewpoint is changed to "Viewpoint B", the object appears to have moved in front of the red square.
It processes your movement like you process your surroundings - through stereopsis, parallax, and synthetic integration of binocular and monocular cues. In lay-terms, it has eyes and ears and sees in 3-D. Oh, and it costs ~$200 - a pittance for something so advanced.

Researchers and do-it-your-self-ers around the world have been "connecting" their Kinects to other electronics. Less than a week after its launch, people have managed to create everything from 3-D home video recorders, to computer input devices, to robots that move based on 3-D perception of reality, and more.

Google Cars Drive Themselves, In Traffic
Now, this may appear to be just a really neat, but not really revolutionary technology. Don't be fooled though; There are far deeper implications looming. Kinect may have just unleashed an explosion of new, significantly more practical robotics innovations. It's conceivable that because of Kinect, that in years, not decades, we may begin to see Robots performing significantly more complicated tasks for us. Things like making our meals, cleaning our entire house (not just mopping the floor), and driving our cars. All of this contributes to the continued march towards the complete elimination of unskilled jobs.

And that is how Kinect is "taking" our jobs.

By aiding in the race toward total life automation, Kinect, and society as a whole, are also racing toward a virtually insurmountable divide between the upper and lower class. If ever a case were to be made for the value of higher education, this is it, folks!

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