In a special in-depth feature published today, a huge number of the leading middleware companies – from Havok and Autodesk to Unity and Blitz – have been talking over the key trends, opportunities and challenges currently defining the tools and tech sector.
A topic of particular interest is the analysis of Kinect (still called Natal at the time of writing), and its potential effect on those companies increasingly having to cater for ever more platforms and formats.
“Natal opens the door for new category of middleware that will utilise new peripheral hardware capabilities,” suggested Fork Particle’s CEO Noor Khawaja. “I think we will see middleware that does stuff with adjustable intelligence added. A ‘Natal-like’ system which takes interactivity to a new level may trigger the trend for artificial intelligence and decision making technology applied to gesture recognition, facial expressions and emotions, and conversational speech. I think these are only a few applications and there is room for many more."
Furthermore, with the extended console life cycle Microsoft has suggested Kinect will introduce, there are even more reasons to be optimistic, according to some.
“I think everyone will benefit from an extended hardware cycle. For example, we have a lot of product and technology ideas that will run perfectly fine on current hardware. In addition, Natal and Move itself are opening up very compelling opportunities for technology providers," stated Torsten Reil, the CEO and co-founder of human body movement experts Natural Motion.
However, with Kinect and Move joined by the likes of 3DS, stereoscopic 3D, Gaikai and Onlive, some argue there is a danger that smaller middleware firms will be lost in the explosion of platforms, interface approaches and distribution models.
“The danger is that small middleware companies could reach a tipping point, where they are forced to spend more time ensuring compatibility with an explosion of platforms than making their core product better,” warns Frank Kane, founder of sky rendering experts Sungdog.
Click here to read the full feature.