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"He talked about tons of really cool Microsoft R&D products, apparently there are a lot of things that go through MS development that never see the light of day or are just simply not interesting from a marketing perspective"

Kinect is largely based off PrimeSense's technology and a friend of mine is very good friends with PrimeSenses's founder and the inventor. FWIR they're pleased (and wealthy) now that the tech has gotten so much distribution via MS & specifically Xbox initiatives - it's been huge. It also seems to be popular at the MIT media lab (1 block from MS's New England Research center) for different application from handicap assist to kiosks but in terms of personal computing I'm not so sure it scales as easily to the scope of a near field UI - even attempts at lensing the system to work closer aren't to the 3 foot or less range though I haven't kept up with all of this.

Yes, engineers/developers, as well as laypeople, can come up with interesting ideas but ultimately with few exceptions we're at the mercy of business plans and marketing. When not military or aerospace pushing such a thing it's often university spinoffs or other small entities that will find a way to expose the more interesting applications of 3d gesture UI's. To that point there are commercial Kinect development kits now (they were promoting them in Boston at the embedded sys show that I was at, and so was MS - w/lots of Kinect promos & teardowns etc, in Sept 2011). Commercial dev with Kinect is far from dead:
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