UPDATE: Microsoft has told Kotaku that while they are "excited about the potential of Kinect and its potential to impact gaming and entertainment" and file lots of patents to protect their intellectual property, "Kinect that is shipping this holiday will not support sign language."
Kinect's big coming out party held by Microsoft at E3 touted the video chat features that the new peripheral will bring to the Xbox 360, but no one mentioned anything about sign language comprehension and translation. Such feats may be possible, however, according to a Microsoft patent application spotted by SlashGear.
"Where the user is unable to speak, he may be prevented from joining in the voice chat," the patent posted on APPFT.USPTO.gov explains. "Even though he would be able to type input, this may be a laborious and slow process to someone fluent in ASL. Under the present system, he could make ASL gestures to convey his thoughts, which would then be transmitted to the other users for auditory display. The user's input could be converted to voice locally, or by each remote computer."
That means one user wouldn't necessarily need to be fluent in American Sign Language to understand a friend communicating through recognized gestures on another Kinect-equipped 360. Even better, the patent application actually used the term "PWNED" in its notes.
"In this situation, for example, when the user kills another user's character, that victorious, though speechless, user would be able to tell the other user that he had been 'PWNED,'" it states. "In another embodiment, a user may be able to speak or make the facial motions corresponding to speaking words. The system may then parse those facial motions to determine the user's intended words and process them according to the context under which they were inputted to the system."
Personally, I'd just like to learn how to say "PWNED" in ASL. If Kinect can do that for me, I might consider picking it up on those merits alone.
Do you know how to say "PWNED" in ASL? Would you use these Kinect features? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter! You can also follow me, MTV Multiplayer writer Brian Warmoth, on Twitter!