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.
By 3DTV Buying Guide StaffPosted 12.17.2010 at 12:39 pm 1 Comment
Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group recently displayed some very advanced 3-D technology, that solves a major problem with 3-D: the glasses. 3-D without glasses has been around for awhile, but it has always had some limitations. One of the largest and most troubling limitations is that it only works for one viewer, and that viewer must keep their eyes within a specific area.
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.
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.
The slick touchscreens of our iPhones and Droids are visually magnificent and the epitome of tech chic, but their slick, untextured glass screens don't resonate with humans' tactile nature (that's why some people just can't kick the hardware button keyboard). Good tactile touchscreens – screens that impart a feeling of touch or texture in sync with a displayed image – have thus far eluded device makers. A new Microsoft project could change all that.
So you've decided to spring for a Microsoft Kinect (or you're buying one as a gift, or you're planning on getting one as a gift), eh? Congratulations! It's great (mostly)! But here's the thing: Not every living room can handle the Kinect, and even in the ones that can, there are some specifics you may not realize that can really make the Kinect experience better (without hacking).
When the multinational corporation began tempting us to purchase a network-connected camera to place in our living rooms, the Orwellian parts of us should have predicted this: Microsoft is hinting that it would like to use the Kinect to better target its content to users. That means gathering data from the camera – everything from basic demographics to what shirt you're wearing – and use it to tailor its media offerings.
There is a certain we try to capture here every day on PopSci.com, that effervescent sensation when the future becomes suddenly tangible, thrilling, real. That sharp, at times bewildering moment: "Wow."
After playing for four days, I can comfortably say Microsoft's Kinect, the Xbox 360's new sound and motion sensor for Xbox, delivers that feeling more than anything I've experienced recently. I feel safe calling it a bounding leap forward in potential for the future of gaming, your living room, and the way we interact with machines. But we're not living in that future fully just yet.