Scientists using the Kinect to study glaciers and asteroids

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The second post of our run up to the v1 release Inspirational week shows how the Kinect is inspiring scientists and students alike...

Scientists Hack Kinect to Study Glaciers and Asteroids

SAN FRANCISCO — Last summer, Ken Mankoff shimmied through zero-degree water and mud into a small cavern underneath Rieperbreen Glacier in Svalbard, Norway, holding a Microsoft Kinect wrapped inside a waterproof bag.

Using the little toy, originally meant as a motion-sensing device for the Xbox 360 videogame console, Mankoff scanned the cave floor in 3-D. During the summer, water from lakes on the glacier’s surface had gushed through the channel he was sitting in. The Kinect was going to provide a better understanding of its size and roughness, which could help researchers predict how the ice above would flow toward the sea.

“I’ve always enjoyed repurposing cheap devices, doing things that you’re not supposed to do with them,” said Mankoff, a NASA-funded Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, studying ice and ocean interactions. “You know, the hacker ideals.”

He is currently a bit of an evangelist for the Kinect, trying to get scientist interested in using the device, which can record very accurate 3-D data in visible and infrared wavelengths. As part of this, he presented a poster of his work here Dec. 8 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. The poster drew strong crowds and piqued the interest of at least a dozen researchers.


We’ll put the Kinect through its paces in the lab to make sure it’s up to snuff,” he said.

The Kinect’s best asset may be that it inspires students, Tedesco said. Rather than a daunting black box with convoluted cables and arcane software, the Kinect is something that many students are already familiar with.

“This creates a different mindset in students,” he said. “They’re not so scared about using the Kinect, and they can really get involved in learning and basic research.”

Project Information URL: [Found via How Scientists are Using Kinect]


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