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Businesses in Motion: SAP HANA + Microsoft Kinect, and More

Written By: Jorge Garcia
Published On: April 16 2012

A recent note that landed on my plate really grabbed my attention: As part of a long partnership, Microsoft and SAP jointly gave a demo in which Microsoft Kinect was used to exploit SAP’s HANA capabilities. Seeing data being managed by a motion-based device made me want to write a post speculating about the way users and computers will interact in the future.

First: Is it too early for adoption of this type of technology? Well, maybe not. It seems the door might be opening for a new way of interacting with computer systems, and specifically with business applications. Allow me to share some hints about a possible future scenario.

Kinect Is a Serious Thing

First conceived for games and fun, Kinect is a motion-based device that enables users to interact with an appliance (hardware and software) without using a traditional electronic device (keyboard, controller, etc.), Instead, human movement is emulated or interpreted by the application. Many of us have experience to some degree with the use of Kinect in gaming, but this system also has potential uses for "real-life" applications in, e.g., the medical and educational fields, as well as many others.

In fact, Microsoft has already started offering Kinect for business application development, by providing Kinect with special features for commercial usage, such as like enhanced sensor capabilities as well as more developed speech and audio capabilities.

Microsoft has also developed a software development kit (SDK) to enable the creation of Kinect-based applications, including support for applications built in C++, C#, or Visual Basic via Microsoft’s Visual Studio. It also includes drivers for Kinect sensors and application programming interfaces (APIs), as well as technical documentation and code samples. So even in its early stages, the groundwork is set for a fruitful space in motion-based applications.

A Practical Scenario: HANA + Kinect

Returning to the case built by SAP HANA and Kinect: In a demo presented by Stefan Krueger, we can see how Kinect for motion-based operation makes it possible to take advantage of SAP HANA’s real-time capabilities to analyze and perform data discovery, all with our bare hands.

Much of this would be impossible without the development of a reliable motion-based device like Kinect in conjunction with technologies such as in-memory or real-time response databases that are able to explore and analyze great amounts of data in a short period of time.

Another interesting component of this equation is without a doubt the ability of new systems to work by building blocks of code instead of working from the ground up, as Chor-Chin Fan mentions in a recent post about Tom Cruise-style BI from LogiXML, who know what they are talking about when it comes to modularity and developing via code assembly components.

Adding Augmented Reality to the Equation

Finally, what happens if we add another variable to the equation in the form of augmented reality? Well, KeyTree, a UK-based SAP partner, has done just that, with a product called CEO Vision, which combines SAP HANA, Kinect, and augmented reality technologies to provide unique ways to discover data in real time—with your hands—at the same time creating a 3D dashboard view combined with reality, to produce what they call a “spatial operating environment.”

So What?

While this is just one view of many possible trends in the business software space, we might be witnessing a revolutionary shift in the way users interact with business applications, and at the same time the advent of a new user- and business-centered way to manage information.

Of course, these emerging technologies have potential drawbacks and constraints, and only time will tell to what extent the user community will adopt these sorts of technologies. But we might be closer than we think to big changes in how users can interface with their business systems. What do you think? Are you a startup working with something similar?

Tell us about it or drop a line below with your thoughts, I’ll respond as soon as I can.
 
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