Yes, yes, Kinect hacks are SO 2011—but the little camera that could continues to give us strange goodies like an ever-flowing digital pinata. And with rumors abound of the New Kinect’s capabilities, we’re sure these little concepts are gonna rev up big time when the Xbox One drops.
With a Kinect, a projector, and some bath salts, researchers at Tokyo’s University of Electro-Communications Koike Laboratory turn your placid bath into a touchscreen party. Pinch and expand, drag windows into applications to open them, or pull into the water to delete—what was a simple five minutes’ peace turns into a pruning-inducing Mad Men marathon without the danger of dropping your iPad into the water. Very cool—but, awkward as it would be to drop enough bath salts in the water to cloud a pool, this could be a unique form of hydrotherapy, keeping under-strengthened limbs afloat while working on fine motor skills to physically manipulate digital space.
If all you need for a good time is darkness, lasers, and some WUB WUB WUBWUBWUB, Kinect has answers to elevate your experience. As part of an art installation in Jackson, WY, a storm of light pulses to the beat—visuals are controlled by audio and MIDI, and the Kinect recognizes and re-projects users onto the wall to form an interactive stage. There’s no reason this can’t be extrapolated to a big venue or programmed to have dancers manipulate or control the music themselves with Kinect-recognized motions.
While the Kinect has been getting widespread love from the medical community, which is using the device to pioneer new, robust, and cheap distance surgery, it can also tell if you’re depressed. Researchers at the University of Southern California have created a program called SimSensei that, yes, asks leading questions, but also focuses on body language like smile level, gaze attention, how open your eyes are, if you’re leaning into the camera, and other physical parameters. In tests, it accurately diagnosed depression 90% of the time.
Company researchers debuted a sign-language-to-text transcriber at Microsoft’s DemoFest a couple of weeks ago, but the New Kinect bundled with Xbox One has even more potential for communication innovation buried within. Underneath all the flashy specs and features, we learned that the New Kinect can read (not guess, read) your pulse—along with discerning whether your muscles are stressed or not, the momentum of your motions quick or slow. Combine this with more sophisticated voice recognition abilities and the Kinect can essentially pick voices out of a room. Think about it: The Kinect can follow you around the room by your pulse and either listen to voice commands over background noise (isolated from voices attached to other pulses) or (combined with the sign language commands above) recognize your hand-signed commands (discernible from flippant motions by quicker, more forceful motions). You may now return from the edges of your seats.
These hackers got pretty creative with a ceiling-mounted Kinect peering down at a backlit tabletop, using blocks to lay out a shadow profile of the neighborhood. The same technique of projecting up onto a tabletop allowed this researcher to create a multi-touch surface and interact with a flow diagram. The increased precision of the new Kinect will only make these kinds of modelling applications more useful for artists, designers, and architects.
[Image: Flickr user Joeri Poesen]