MIT's Robust Robotics Group seems to be as thrilled with the Kinect and the hacking possibilities that emanate therefrom as we are. They've attached a Kinect to a quadrocopter, which enables completely autonomous 3-D mapping and flight--even the processing is done on board.
I love Clipse. I love the Kinect (and Kinect hacks). I can't say I love Travis Barker, but two out of three is plenty to enjoy Clipse's latest for "Come N Get It," a video that calls on the monochrome color blocks and infrared grid of the Kinect's motion-capture tech for visual style points.
Willow Garage recently held a contest to see who could use their open-source Robot Operating System in conjunction with a hacked Microsoft Kinect in the most interesting or useful way. The first place winner is this Customizable Buttons hack. In short: draw buttons with a marker on a piece of paper, then press them. The Kinect recognizes the buttons and the pushing of said buttons, and executes commands--in this case, music. It's like a childhood dream come true.
One of the fundamental joys of the Kinect is lifting one arm, then the other, and seeing the movement mirrored by your on-screen avatar. Know what's even cooler than that? Seeing your movements mirrored by an actual physical robot.
When we last looked in on holographic telepresence tech, a University of Arizona team was impressively streaming near-real-time three-dimensional moving images, offering a glimpse of what telepresence could be once researchers iron out the wrinkles. Now, an MIT team is showing off a simplified scheme for streaming holographic video, using a single Xbox Kinect peripheral and standard graphics chips to create the fastest holographic video yet.
Surgical robots might allow precise operation in tiny places our unwieldy human hands can't go, but using those robots removes the surgeon's valuable sense of touch. At the University of Washington, a group of engineering students decided to use a hacked Microsoft Kinect to give that sense back.
Oliver Kreylos, the Kinect-hacking pioneer who you might remember from our earlier roundups, can't seem to stop pushing the Kinect's 3-D holographic capabilities. This newest hack involves two Kinect sensors, a virtual office, and, improbably, a Nintendo Wii controller, but the end result is pretty amazing: Holographic video chat in full 3-D.
The Kinect's more official uses, namely its games, have pretty much avoided tracking of individual fingers in favor of full-body tracking. That's fine for traditional motion games of the sort pioneered by the Nintendo Wii, but the Kinect has potential far beyond ping-pong and dancing games--and a lot of that future depends on finger tracking for more delicate controls. Luckily, MIT's Robot Locomotion Group and Learning Intelligent Systems teams took it upon themselves to show that the Kinect can absolutely recognize ten fingers and some relatively minute gestures.
This new Microsoft Kinect hack might have the most appeal for the DARPA set. Researchers at the Hybrid Systems Laboratory at UC Berkeley mounted a Kinect sensor atop their Ascending Technologies Pelican quadrotor UAV, mapping the copter’s surroundings so it can avoid obstacles while traveling along a predetermined, programmed path.
Today in Microsoft Kinect hacks, we've got quite possibly the first musical instrument to be transformed into a gesture-controlled facsimile of itself. It's one of the only instruments that can really be brought over without losing either the method or the soul of the original, since the original instrument is played with gestures in the air as well. I'm talking, of course, about the theremin, the favorite instrument of nerds worldwide.
You didn't think the enthusiasm for hacking the Kinect to make it do variously useful and silly things was going to end after two weeks, did you? It's just going to get better, so let's recap with two of the coolest new hacks. One makes you invisible, and one gives you the power of a certain mustachioed plumber.
Microsoft's Kinect is amazing. The first time you try the "crank that" Soulja Boy dance on Dance Central, or slam a ping-pong ball in Kinect Sports using only your awkward, flailing arms--those are moments of sheer futuristic glee. The Kinect, as we noted in our review, is definitely lacking in must-have games, but the potential of Kinect is way bigger than merely video games.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.