In-Depth

7 Amazing Microsoft Kinect Hacks

Microsoft's addon for the Xbox 360 isn't just for games. Check out what happens when the hardware falls into a modder's hands.

With 8 million units sold in its first 60 days on the market, the Kinect was recently named the "fastest selling consumer electronics device" by Guinness World Record. The Xbox 360 peripheral device features  a RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone to provide the user with face recognition, motion capture and voice command recognition for interaction with specially-made Xbox 360 games.

However, for those that weren't content on flailing their arms to play virtual volleyball or ordering their Xbox to power off and on with a voice command, third-party open source drivers have been available almost immediately after its launch. And with all the cool tech demos to emerge in its short time on the market, MS is easily taking notes on some of the breakthroughs that are coming from its very own video game addon.

Here are some of our favorite modifications researchers and hobby hackers have been showing off:

Kinect-Controlled Tesla Colis


An idea this pointless, yet cool could only come from the alcohol-soaked minds of electronic designers at last year's do-it-yourself Maker Fare festival: According to one of the U.K. creators, the idea was conceived during a heated conversation in the pub after a day at the event. Discussing the project on his Twitter feed, Ben Kidd, one of the project designers, wrote, "The MakerFaire hackerspace ran out of challenges, so they rigged a Kinect up to a pair of Tesla coils. On a whim." But what to call it? The Evil Genius Simulator, of course.

Kinect Controls Windows 7


This mod may be slightly more practical (but not as cool) as controlling electricity with your fingertips: Evoluce, the Germany-based company specializing in multi-touch LCD display responsible for this setup, definitely owes Philip K. Dick credit for some of its inspiration. And for those wanting to get in on the action of playing Solitare and opening files with your hands can apply for a free non-commercial version of its gesture software dev kit by e-mailing info@softkinetic.com. 

Kinect 3D Hologram


If you instantly thought, "Help me Obi Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope" when seeing the subject of this video, that's exactly what the MIT researchers had in mind when dreaming this up. While the project is still in the early testing stages, it has achieved a fully 3D image running at 15 fps, just shy of the 24 fps needed for a continuous, smooth holographic image. And don't worry if this video makes little sense; it's hard to illustrate a 3D image in a 2D video. Trust us, it works.  

Kinect Shadow Puppets


OK, take a moment to get over the initial shock of a Microsoft peripheral running on an Apple laptop. This entry is the perfect example of some of the more artistic endeavors possible with this piece of tech. The designers, Theo Watson and Emily Gobeille, specialize in visual interactive installations and art pieces, and have designed a cool piece of software that could add a new and exciting tool for performance artists.

Optical Camouflage Demo with Kinect


While the practical applications may not yet be there, who doesn't want to recreate Predator from the comfort of their own living room? Takayuki Fukatsu, the creator of the mod, used the OpenFramework toolkit to create an optical filler using pre-taken photographs. What's amazing about this mod is that it is filtering and updating in real time.

Quadrotor Autonomous Flight Using Kinect Sensor


This mod, coming from the research group Hybrid Systems Lab, a joint project with UC Berkley and Stanford, stands out -- even on this list. It uses the cameras and sensor bar of the Kinect to create a miniature helicopter that can maneuver around obstacles without any human control. While the miniature version is perfect for terrorizing the neighbor pets, full implication of this technology would make it a valuable tool where visibility and hazardous conditions weren't ideal for a human pilot.

Kinect Virtual Reality


At this point, it looks like 3D technology will be more than just a passing fad. While there are countless companies and groups improving on the technology that has been around since the 1950s, a group at Louisiana State University is taking it a step further. The research team has figured out a way to couple the Kinect with a 3D television to move and manipulate the 3D image based on where  and how the user is viewing it. It also allows for interaction of the 3D objects with your hands. Translation: virtual reality for the living room!    

Seen any cool mods for Microsoft's Kinect? Let us know in the comment section.

 

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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