Photo: okreylos, YouTube
Kinect, the motion-controlled sensor for Xbox 360, contains some startling technology for a $150 consumer gadget. It’s like when GPS navigators first became popular, bringing what was once highly sophisticated military technology to the masses, or when the iPhone made capacitive multitouch screens the new standard for mobile phones.As with any sufficiently advanced technology, the community wasn’t going to settle for using Kinect strictly as it was intended.
Almost as soon as it was released, people began trying to figure out how Kinect worked. Then came the hacks, then the alternate applications. Hopefully Microsoft will see fit to buy some of these ideas and release them for the product itself. In the meantime, look on in wonder.
Quite a few Kinect buyers discovered this almost immediately: because Kinect bounces thousands of tiny beams of infrared light to detect people and objects in the room, viewing the room with night-vision reveals a constellation of little white dots.
Some of the first Kinect hacks were claimed by AlexP, who bought the device on November 6th and immediately started figuring out how it worked. By November 8th, he had posted a video showing images from Kinect's colour and depth sensors playing on a Windows 7 computer. The images themselves aren't that startling, but they laid the foundation for some really cool hacks later on.
Building on earlier hacks showing how Kinect's sensors worked, Oliver Kreylos was able to use Kinect to create a virtual 3D image of objects in the room, including himself sitting at the computer. The shadows and blank spots result because there's only one Kinect in the room, and it's viewing the room from a single angle. Anything outside its field of vision is hidden.
After figuring out how to turn Kinect into a 3D viewer, Oliver Kreylos tried connecting two Kinects to the same computer and combining the images. This helped get rid of some of the blank spots and shadows.
Another user, known on YouTube as floemuc, hacked Kinect to create a virtual multitouch application: he moves his hands through the air to drag and drop digital photos on a screen. The effect is similar to the machine used by Tom Cruise in the 2002 movie Minority Report
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