Rory Cellan-Jones's avatar interviews Microsoft executive Reena Kawal's avatar
If you spent $9bn a year on research and development and employed 900 of the world's top computer scientists to come up with new ideas, what would you expect in return?
More than a new way of playing video games, a cynic might say.
But Microsoft - a company that may well spend more on R&D than any other business - believes its strategy is paying off, and the proof is the XBox Kinect system.
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On a visit to the company's headquarters, I had a chance to see some of the projects that Microsoft scientists at its laboratories in Redmond, in Beijing and in Cambridge, England, believe will change the way we see computers.
And the striking thing about what Microsoft's research chief Craig Mundie picked to show off to a group of technology journalists was that almost all of them involved Kinect.
The system which turns a player's body into a games controller was developed with the help of seven different research groups at the company's three main labs, some working on voice recognition, others on motion sensors and a range of other technologies.
Now they are looking at what Kinect could do next.
We saw a system which would allow two people to see different images on the same screen, their eyes tracked by the Kinect camera.
Other scientists showed off ways that the camera could capture objects and people in 3D, which might have applications in future telepresence systems.
And there was plenty of work on avatars, for use in either games or in video-conferencing. Two Chinese researchers demonstrated a photo-realistic talking head - type in some text and he'll say anything you want, blinking and moving almost like a real person.
Craig Mundie says the success of Kinect, which racked up 8m sales in its first 60 days, is proof that the sheer scale of Microsoft's R&D strategy is paying off.
"Microsoft is at a point where many of the things that we've been researching for twenty years are starting to add up and produce solutions," he says. "You can't rely on two guys in a garage to make all the changes, some of these things require a huge amount of technology and a lot of scale."
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