Common Sense and Kinect

by Bruce Kasanoff on November 4, 2010

Some day an enterprising company will propose a deal with its customers: in return for a dramatically better customer experience, the firm will place microphones and cameras in the customer’s home and will track the customer’s movements and words.

That is exactly what Microsoft is doing today, with its new Kinect system for the Xbox 360.

Kinect has no remotes, no controllers. It watches you. It listens to you. When you play a game, your avatar on the screen does what you do. To bowl, you bowl. To dance, you dance.

If you want to switch from a game to, say, HGTV, you say, “Xbox, HGTV.”

Kinect is so revolutionary is makes you want to giggle with delight and amazement, but it is actually the most obvious example of a trend I call Common Sense.

Organizations of all sorts are flooding our world with sensors: cameras, microphones, accelerometers, GPS units and dozens upon dozens different sensors. These sensors will utterly transform customer experiences and customer expectations. They will sink many companies and provide immense opportunities for others.

The Common Sense trend leads to a business approach that has been around for a long time, but that until recently was only implemented on a modest level. It’s called sense and respond.

Stated simply, sense and respond works pretty much like it sounds. The company senses an action, and it responds. (Think company as in an automated system, not a person sitting at a desk.)

Over the coming months, millions of consumers are going to run out and install Microsoft’s cameras and microphones in their homes. These people will be living in a sense and respond world. They will represent the first wave of a dramatically different set of customer expectations.

(I am already counting the days until I can throw my hated Cablevision remote control under my car tires.)

Common Sense is not limited to games and entertainment. Sensors are changing every industry. Few business executives recognize the magnitude of these changes, or how close they are.

I’ve created a quick four-minute Common Sense overview, but here are few points to keep in mind:

1.) Sensors come in many different shapes and forms – in my book, Kindle counts as a sensor. It can track what you read, how fast you read, and when your reading preferences shift. The laptop on which I am typing this leaves all sorts of evidence regarding how I spend my days.

2.) Sensors make it inevitable that nearly every product and service will be customized. In a sense and respond world, there is little room for “dumb” products that never change or respond, no matter what you do. Just as smartphones have changed our expectations and lifestyles, so too will sense and respond systems like Kinect.

3.) Systems like Kinect will be used both at work and at home… and everywhere else.
Smart beats dumb. Kinect isn’t perfect. But it is a tantalizing taste of the future, and that future is coming very quickly. Seven years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. Today it has more than 500 million members.

Kinect is the starting gun in a race to transform customer experience across all industries. I hope you hear it.



Bruce Kasanoff is a speaker, consultant and entrepreneur focused on the ways that disruptive technologies are changing customer experience.

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