In March, Guinness World Records named Microsoft's (MSFT) Kinect for the Xbox 360 as history's fastest-selling consumer electronics device. The sensor sold 8 million units in its first 60 days, surpassing even Apple's (AAPL) iPhone and iPad. Much like those gadgets, the Kinect is starting to make its way into business.
Hackers are using Kinect's camera and sensors, hooking them up to personal computers with open-source software. The technology can turn a personal computer into a two-way window: Not only can users see the computer; now the computer is aware of the person using it.
In the past five months, hackers have embedded Kinect cameras and sensors in robots as an inexpensive way to help them see and navigate. Developers are making it possible for people to control computers with gestures. Some surgeons are using the Kinect in operating rooms so they can look at CT scans in a sterile environment without having to touch a computer. Check out 10 of the ways programmers are morphing Kinect's technology in modes that extend far beyond gaming.
Real Time Facial Animation
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) Using the Kinect's low-cost 3D sensor, researchers are able to record real-time facial expressions from a person looking at the computer and then transfer them to a 3D digital animation. The face-tracking software takes lower-resolution input from the Kinect and maps it to a higher-resolution digital animation. Because it doesn't require intrusive lighting or complex scanning hardware, this kind of animation could become available to consumers. This research paper has been submitted to the Siggraph 2011 conference to be held in August.
Gesture Control Software for Kinect & Windows 7
Control your computer with a wave of your hand. Win&I business software lets workers use gestures instead of a mouse to navigate Windows 7 desktop, Windows Media Center, Internet browsers, Microsoft Office, and PowerPoint presentations.
FaceCake Marketing Technologies
Swivel is an interactive virtual mirror that lets customers try on clothing virtually, either from home or in a store. Shoppers see themselves in real-time 3D clothing. Shortly after the founders of the company presented Swivel at Demo 2011, they received a friendly call from Microsoft.
Kinect and Medical Imaging
With a flick of their hands, doctors can scroll through X-rays and other medical images on a large screen. Using both hands, they can zoom in on specific images to see more detail.
MIT Media Lab
This conferencing system turns a videoconferencing screen into an interactive display. For example, when a participant speaks, his name appears over his head and the camera focuses on him, blurring all other participants. An executive who wants to check text messages discreetly while someone else is speaking can freeze an image of herself looking attentive.
In March, Nordstrom (JWN) created an interactive shop window at its flagship store in Seattle. The Spring 2011 Designer Catalog explored the theme painting with light. Using Kinect's infrared technology, the interactive development, visual merchandising, and operations teams at Nordstrom created a window display that let anyone "paint" words and designs on the window, using just the motion of their hands.
Parkinson's Game Therapy
Red Hill Studios
In an effort to help patients who have Parkinson's disease, Red Hill Studios and the University of California, San Francisco created a game tailored to the exercise needs of those afflicted. The Kinect can detect a patient's motion. The better patients do at balancing and other exercises, the more points they win—and the more challenging the games become.
PowerPoint Presentations Controlled with Kinect
Speakers can now control PowerPoint presentations with gestures, such as a flick to move slides forward, using both hands to zoom into an image, and twirling a finger to rotate a 3D model. This software even lets users play and control video with hand movements.
Kinect in the Operating Room
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Surgeons such as Dr. Calvin Law refer to CT scan images during operations at Sunnybrook in Toronto. That used to require either remembering information or stepping outside the sterile environment to touch a computer, which required scrubbing in again. Now with Kinect, Dr. Law can remain in the sterile field and use hand gestures to manipulate images. Jamie Tremaine, an engineer at Sunnybrook, designed the application.
University of California, Berkeley
Using Kinect cameras and depth sensors is an inexpensive way to give robots vision in order to navigate. Researchers in the Hybrid Systems Lab at the University of California, Berkeley are experimenting with the technology to help an aerial drone detect and avoid objects as it flies through the air.