How the Kinect is making Science Fiction real...

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Today's inspirational post by Asavin Wattanajantra brings together a number of things we've highlighted here, and that many of you already know, just how Science Fiction the Kinect can be...

Making Science Fiction Real: Microsoft Kinect

When the Microsoft Kinect came out it extended the Xbox 360 audience, making it attractive to people who weren’t necessarily traditional gamers, providing a physical, fun and interactive experience. But it’s also become extremely interesting to researchers, looking to develop new technology we’ve only seen in the movies.

One of the most interesting science fiction films in the last few years was Minority Report. Set in 2054, John Anderton, the character played by Tom Cruise, is using a multi-touch display in the air making gestures we know so well for our smartphones.

More recently the Iron Man films see Robert Downey Jr playing billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark, using a similar gesture based multi-touch computer system. With this he can interact with and manipulate 3D holographic models as he plays around with cool features for his Iron Man suit.


Virtual reality on Kinect

Read enough science-fiction literature or watch enough movies and you'll encounter a reference to virtual reality. In Star Trek, characters get to play in a holodeck which allows them to play out their fantasies. In the cyberpunk book, Snow Crash, hackers plug into a collective shared virtual reality-based internet, populated by other user-controlled avatars.

We're still quite a long way from this advanced virtual reality – a 3D Second Life-style online world we can interact with physically, rather than just on a screen. But holograms such as the ones in Star Wars are already here, and augmented reality is something we're already seeing with our smartphones. Research recently done by Microsoft is looking to push this even further.

The Kinect has attracted a lot of research interest due to its sensors, which function as depth cameras. These emit light to the environment and capture a scene's depth information using a structured-light technique. In practice, this could see applications such as 3D shape scanning and model generation.

Recently, Microsoft researchers took this a step further, exploring the possibilities of using the Kinect to capture a 3D scene in real-time and reconstructing it. In the past this has been done with laser scanners which are expensive and slow, or multiple colour cameras which are inaccurate, particularly on surfaces with no texture.


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