Natural Computing Evolution
Back in January, Intel talked about a new type of computing called "perceptual computing," where computers will leverage voice, face, and gesture controls to make computing a more natural experience. Gadgets still have a ways to go before they become Star Trek-like, but this year, we saw the first blips of that natural computing promise take shape.
Google, a powerhouse when it comes to voice recognition, worked its data magic again this year with deeper, smarter, and more frictionless Google Now integration into smartphones (Moto X), tablets and PCs. You can now download a Chrome extension and voice activate and dictate a Google search. I use it every day instead of typing, and it's changed the myworkflow for the better. How awesome is that?
The Leap Motion controller isn't perfect, but it did deliver (sort of) on a Minority Report-esque input system that uses hand gestures and finger manipulation. It even managed to rope in HP to build the Leap Motion's tech directly into new laptops, which should mean we'll be seeing more apps and more practical uses in 2014.
The Xbox One pushed the idea of natural computing even more than the Xbox 360 did. While using the second-generation Kinect is an optional choice (buying an Xbox One without it isn't), it's clear that the console's entertainment experience — for TV and gaming — was designed from the ground up to work seamlessly with facial recognition (Xbox Live user log-ins) and voice commands.
Apple hasn't pushed natural computing as hard outside of Siri on iPhones and iPads, but the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5s at least showed interest in making security a more tolerable feature.
Taken as a whole, computing is headed in the right direction. In another generation, there won't be a single person who will be afraid of using a computer, because inputs will be as intuitive and instinctive as speaking, seeing, and touching.