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Microsoft Kinect man enlists with Google special ops

Face-time at Mountain View

One of the core engineers working on Microsoft's Wii-like Kinect set-up has jumped ship for Google.

Johnny Chung Lee has blogged that he joined Microsoft's search and ads adversary after just two years at Redmond. He joined what he called a Google "special projects team".

Lee had served as a core contributor on the human tracking algorithms for Kinect, the Xbox add-on for playing Xbox games with a controller. Microsoft claims that more than eight million Kinect units have been sold since launch in November last year.

Lee was a member of Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group, an interdisciplinary group that works with optics, electronics, and software to create what it calls "the next generation of computer interaction technologies."

The former Microsoft man describes his own personal research interests as: "Exploring novel interface technology that can influence the lives of many people."

Does this mean Google is working on some kind of new game or game-like service?

Last summer, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google was in talks to build a Facebook-like social network service that would offer online games. The WSJ said Google had talked to Playdom - bought by Disney - Electronic Arts' Playfish, and Zynga about the service.

Zynga is extremely Facebook-friendly, with games like Farmville pulling in 60 million users on Mark Zuckberg's service and Zynga splitting 30 cent of virtual goods revenue with Facebook. Google is rumored to be an investor in Zynga.

Equally, it's conceivable that Google could be evaluating human-computer interface technology for its Cr-48 netbook or Google TV.

At Lee's former employer, one of the targets for the next version of Windows – Windows 8 – is facial-recognition technology. This could be used as a form of authentication to pull-up the user's profile on their Windows 8 machine, according to documents leaked in June last year.

Windows 8 is planned as Microsoft's operating system for iPad-like machines in addition to PCs, with support added for touch, instant on, and tablet form factors.

Google's Cr-48 has yet to ship, but this Chrome-based device will likely be presented by Google as an alternative to the traditional Windows-based PC or even tablets. Google TV is struggling for acceptance among content providers and OEMs, but it's possible Google could be looking at more natural forms of input as a way to win partners. ®

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