Best Kinect Breakthroughs - Breakthrough Week


By Jess Goulart

Photo courtesy of Tony Buser.

The event all gamers look forward to year-round–The Electronic Entertainment Expo (or ‘E3’ for short)–ran its course from June 10th through the 12th at the Los Angeles Convention Center last week. Amidst the mass of game announcements were revamps of old favorites (The Last of Us), continuations of big names (Uncharted–yes!), and gorgeous graphics galore (Fables, The Legend of Zelda for WII U).

Having revealed next-generation consoles only last year, the focus of the event for developers shifted from the “how” to the “what” in the future of video games. With that backdrop, many popular brands premiered projects they’d been squirreling away for years, waiting until console technology caught up with their designs (like it does for the hotly anticipated Star Wars: Battle Front).

The Xbox Kinect was decidedly absent from the displays, which is no wonder since Xbox reneged on their plan to automatically bundle the Xbox One with a Kinect after the general public dismissed the Kinect technology as useless–or at least, bug-ridden. Customers can now buy an Xbox One sans the Kinect for cheap (ok, cheaper) which means studios have to choose whether to make their games Kinect compatible.

The Kinect may have failed as a gaming device and commercial success, but DIYers around the globe used it in some major technological breakthroughs. Here are the five best hacks BTR was able to find for this curiously moot piece of technology:

Quadrotor Autonomous Flight

Patrick Bouffard, a graduate student in Computer Programing at the University of California Berkeley, created a self-flying mini-helicopter using the Kinect as a guidance device. The Kinect uses sensors to deliver information about the surrounding area and the helicopter thus avoids obstacles, though only by coming to a full-stop before hitting them, not by swerving.

High-Tech Guide-Dog For The Blind

Tzahi Simkin, Gal Dalal, and Danny Zilber of Technion University in Israel used a Kinect 3D camera, a computer, and an Android phone to develop a system that auditorily warns users of obstacles. The camera sits on a belt and scans the environment, transmitting the data to the phone that then says aloud what the users surroundings look like. Like an omniscient Siri, it can also be trained to recognize specific objects such as key holes or handbags.

The Gloves Project

The Gloves Project is lead by musician Imogen Heap. A user wears gloves that are connected to the Kinect and Ableton, an advanced music recording software. Using a “unique gestural vocabulary,” the user is able to create digital productions of music. When the user moves their fingers or hands, the movements direct the computer to play various sounds. For example, the tap of a finger elicits a different note than the swipe of a hand. As Imogen Heap demonstrates in the video below, the design turns both the gloves and her body into an instrument.

Interactive Puppets

Theodore Watson and Emily Gobeille are the brains behind Design I/O, a production studio specializing in interactive installations. They designed an interactive puppet that uses the Kinect to track your arm movements and maneuver the projected puppet accordingly. It may not be reinventing the wheel, but it does bring shadow puppets to a whole new level.

The Kinect Sex Game

Not quite a hack, but hilarious nonetheless. ThriXXX Software added support for the Kinect to its already existing line of 3D sex games (SexVilla 2) for a virtual experience. Complete with nudity and groping, you really don’t have to use much of your imagination to guess at how this goes.

[Ed. note, video below is NSFW]

See Xbox, the Kinect is good for something! Just not gaming.