Hackers Rush To Adapt Kinect Outside the Xbox 360

Despite all the promotional hand-waving Microsoft did to launch its Kinect hands-free game controller, the company may have underestimated some of its impact. Programmers are rapidly adapting the Minority Report-like device for other uses that have nothing to do with the Xbox 360 — and a contest is seeking more experiments.

Oliver Kreylos, a researcher at the University of California-Davis, announced he has used the two cameras in the Kinect to control the 3-D software and use it as a 3-D video camera. In Kinect, one of the cameras shoots video while the other measures depth, resulting in a 640×480 video stream and a 320×240 depth stream. The depth stream measures invisible infrared dots that are projected into a room. Kreylos’ hack allows him to generate live 3-D feeds of himself or objects in the room.

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In a posting on his blog, Kreylos said his adaptation was “based on the reverse-engineering work of Hector Martin.”

On a challenge from an electronic-kit-making company called Adafruit, Martin recently announced that he had utilized Kinect to work on a PC. He enabled Kinect’s motion-capture system to interact with a Linux laptop and OpenGL drivers, and he reportedly is now working on interacting with the device’s voice capture and control system.

Adafruit’s challenge, which was accompanied by a prize of $3,000, was to use an open-source driver that would work with Kinect. Martin, like Kreylos, said he doesn’t have an Xbox. Others have reported making Kinect work with Windows 7 and Mac OS X computers, and the effort raises the distinct possibility that Kinect and similar controllers could be used to control computers with hands-in-the-air motion, as in the Minority Report movie.

Kreylos noted that he didn’t use any of Martin’s code, except for the “magic incantation” that needs to be sent…

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