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Hacking the Kinect

In many cases, the things that technology is designed to do are nowhere near as impressive as the things that people actually end up doing with them. The idea of hacking technology products to do different things is well-established, and magazines such as Make have sprung up specifically to support these communities. But one of the most hacked products in its relatively short life is Microsoft's Kinect.

The gaming console, which has stereo cameras so it can recognise bodies, movements, and faces, Also recognise voices and speech. Designed primarily for gameplaying and fitness programmes, the system has been adapted by some innovative folks for other means. For example, British artist and designer Chris O'Shea recently hacked one to create an air guitar program, enabling him to strum his favourite chords without a real-life axe in sight.

Earlier this week, researchers at MIT used the Kinect to create a hand-driven interface, in the style of the one that Tom Cruise used in the movie Minority Report.The cameras on the Kinect  are good enough that they can recognise individual finger movements, at a resolution of 60,000 points, at 30 frames per second. Right now, the researchers are using the device to control photographs using hand gestures, but it's easy to see where this stuff could go in the future.

The researchers also used the Kinect in conjunction with the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner to create a robot that can see, mapping out its environment as it moves around. The robot can also recognise where people are pointing, enabling them to give it basic instructions.

Now, if they could just program the Kinect-driven robot to respond appropriately to the phrase “get me a beer", it would all be fine and dandy. I guess we'll have to wait until version 2 for that particular development.

Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets





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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.