5 Microsoft Xbox Kinect Hacks That’ll Blow Your Mind

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kinect hackingThe Microsoft Xbox Kinect is undoubtedly a special bit of kit, and something we haven’t yet covered here on MakeUseOf (although Tim did recommend it in the 2010 MakeUseOf Holiday Gift Guide, and the Xbox 360 gets its fair share of coverage). Perhaps someone on the team will get one for Christmas, but until then I’m left with trailers and YouTube videos to get me excited!

What is it about the Kinect that’s so special? Isn’t it just like the waning Wii, or the more recent but somewhat flailing Playstation Move? Well, no actually – while the software and games Microsoft builds around it may as well be the same, the Kinect is especially interesting because of the incredible hardware inside of it.


Inside that little black… thing is a video camera, a scanning infra-red laser, an infra-red camera, a motorized tilt mechanism, and a noise canceling microphone! Phew! The infrared laser parts are perhaps the most groundbreaking, as they enable it to literally build a 3D layout of its surroundings, and you. Combined with a little processing power of the Xbox, it can recognise a human body shape, and use the movement of your body to control the game.

Since the Kinect plugs in the Xbox through USB, it was obvious to many that it could potentially be used by standard computers, and the race to hack it was on. Microsoft is also rumored to be toying with the idea of integrating the Kinect officially into Windows 8.

I thought now would be a good time to show you some of the amazing things that people have already managed to do with the Kinect, in a roughly chronological / order-of-awesomeness from a simple 3D live camera to an automated attack drone.

3D Video Camera

The first impressive hack to make use of the quickly knocked together open-source drivers, was Oliver Kreylos. He managed to take the video stream, and the 3D data, and combine it into a crazy 3D video stream. Just watch the video – though it may initially look a bit janky, you may very well be blown away when he begins to manipulate the camera angle.

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Of course, when someone suggested 2 cameras to take care of the black “blind-spots”, he tried that too.

Optical Camouflage

Obviously, the next step after having established a 3D video stream is to then paint the person out of the video stream, effectively providing them with optical camouflage! Not quite sure what the use of this one would be, but a cool hack none the less.

Lightsaber Boy & Puppet Girl

Man, geeks are so predicatable sometimes. Give ’em a camera, and soon enough they’ll want to pretend like they have a lightsaber. With the Kinect though – there’s no need for fancy post-production!

On the other end of the geek spectrum – by which I mean, the girls – there is an inherent desire to create something *cute*. The Kinect-powered shadow-puppet is a great first step.

The Quadrotor Autonomous Flight with Obstacle Avoidance

Perhaps one of the most incredible hacks yet is putting the thing a-top a quadrotor (a helicopter with 4 blades), and giving it a Linux brain = Autonomous flying death machine.

Messing With Your Mind

Finally, I’d thought I’d include this one for a bit of fun, even though it’s basically completely useless. Matt Bell took 2 3D video streams of the same physical space and combined them. Though it doesn’t sound so great, the video is incredibly well done, and the mutant objects created are quite fun. Enjoy!

Let us know if you got a Kinect for Christmas and what games you’re genuinely enjoying. My wife has promised we can get one for my birthday in February, and after watching all these I can’t wait!!

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