Video gaming inspires new tools at State

Thursday - 4/5/2012, 3:18pm EDT

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

With a wave of the hand and without touching the screen, State Department employees demonstrate how to swipe through slides in a presentation. The technology is based on Microsoft's Kinect video game software found in the XBox and could be a breakthrough in collaboration for far-flung employees — like those who work for State.

Kinect responds to a person's movement and voice commands. State's Office of eDiplomacy has combined the technology with a Prezi slide presentation, showing their creation at the FOSE Conference in Washington.

The Xbox, which costs about $200, could be a much more cost-effective alternative to a $6,000 presentation board on the market now, Joe Ewing, a technical team leader at the State Department's Office of eDiplomacy, told Federal News Radio.

"As government cuts back, we need to be able to find lighter-weight, innovative, inexpensive solutions that do what the expensive solutions did," Ewing said.

Another potential application for the Kinect is 3-D teleconferencing, as if you were talking to the person face-to-face.

"When you gesture to something, they're seeing on their screen what you're gesturing, so it's capturing your whole body," Ewing said.

Kinect has applications outside of meetings as well, Ewing said. For example, doctors will be able to put up X-rays and move through the image — all without taking off their gloves and having to re-sanitize their hands. In the classroom, students can have a more hands-on learning experience.

Ewing said a new generation of diplomats is joining the agency, and with them will come a push for innovations such as this one. He added that the federal government needs to find solutions collectively "instead of waiting for everyone else to adopt them and jumping in late in the game."