MIT walks the walk with the Kinect (and uses the data to design smarter spaces)


Today's project is another wild example of how the Kinect is being used in ways beyond anything the designers ever considered...

Spying On Our Walking Habits With Kinects, To Create Smarter Spaces

A project at MIT has been using the video game system to help model how pedestrians move through space and what they do when things get in their way. With that knowledge, the scientists are figuring out better ways to manage crowds in tight urban places.

Microsoft unveiled the Kinect two years ago as an add-on for the Xbox. The infrared motion-detecting sensor was designed to enhance video games, to turn you, as Xbox puts it, into your own controller. But immediately, of course, researchers at MIT started hacking the things.

A tool initially intended for your virtual dance moves on Michael Jackson: The Experience had obvious potential for scientists as well to study how people move through all kinds of scenarios and spaces. Researchers at MIT’s Senseable City Lab figured the simple gadget--available for about $80 at the scientific warehouse of Best Buy--could change how scientists study all kinds of crowd behaviors in our increasingly congested cities.

Tracking Pedestrians

They bought some Kinects and mounted them on campus. Now their project–-Kinect Kinetics, they call it–-has demonstrated a new technique for tracking human behavior that could ultimately help us build smarter airports, train stations, public plazas, shopping malls and supermarkets. With 60% of the world’s population projected to cram into urban areas by 2030, this is no trivial invention.


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