Last month I was at Blip Fest in Melbourne, watching a bunch of musically talented geeks using their Game Boys and ZX Spectrums to make pounding yet tuneful electro beats. A projector accompanied the music, showing glitchy visualizations, vintage console classics and a real-time processed stream from a Microsoft Kinect.
It was the first time I had seen a hacked unit in the wild, and it certainly stole the show in terms of visuals. That night I got home, ears still ringing, and decided to revisit the Kinect hacking scene and see what everyone has been up to for the last few months. Here’s what I found.
Dedon Window Display
Created by the folks over at SarkissianMansion, the Dedon window display in New York City uses a variety of devices to create a moving window display that just begs to be played with. The mechanism consists of a hidden Kinect unit and 30 motors driven by an Arduino microcontroller.
The Kinect detects movement as people walk past and stop in front of the display. As window shoppers move their arms the motors are used to move the grass accordingly, giving passers-by a glimpse into the shop. It’s another stellar example of an interactive shop display that literally stops potential customers in their tracks.
SkiRanger for Windows
What started as part of a diploma thesis project has evolved into what looks like a rather fun motion controller game for Windows. Created by newly formed Outpost Studios, SkiRanger is a Kinect-powered downhill skiing game that makes great use of the Kinect’s abilities as a full body controller.
The project is set to go into open beta at some point (Q1 2012 according to the website) so you’ll be able to try it out for yourself before long. The developers initially intend to release the game for a low price to gauge just how much interest the project has before developing it further. You can find out more at the official project website.
3D modelling with a Kinect has been around for a while now, and the benefits must not be ignored. Before the Kinect (and similar devices) came into existence, 3D modelling either required very expensive equipment or a skilled 3D designer and some very expensive software.
Now, thanks to the Kinect and its depth-sensing technology, building a 3D model of your desk, car or even face is affordable and attainable by nearly anyone. You’re still going to need some expertise to take these models and use them in the wild, but the software builds models in seconds rather than hours.
ReconstructMe is free for non-commercial users, so if you’ve got a Kinect and fancy playing around you can get started here.
Real-Time Motion Capture with Kinect
The first video below demonstrates basic motion capture using the Kinect in real time. The Skeleton on the left-hand side is the input coming straight from the Kinect, and then this data is applied to pre-configured models and animated accordingly.
The second video shows this motion capture technique being used in the real-world to create an animated series called Under the HUD. This is just one example of how Kinect has been used to empower producers and speed-up the animation process without the need for a huge budget.
While it’s not as much fun as skiing down a mountain and nowhere near as useful as being able to model 3D objects on the fly, Fusion4D is exciting because it looks like something from a sci-fi movie. Except it’s not, it’s real.
Using a combination of gestures and voice commands as well as 3D technology, Fusion4D is designed to simulate a 3D object floating in front of the user. The software allows for navigation in all four dimensions (that includes time) and looks like a lot of fun to use.
There are no release details available yet but you can follow the project over at the.
A Virtual Vacation might not sound very fun, but this interactive photo tool from Activate3D produces some convincing results. Using Kinect and a number of predefined scenes, Virtual Vacation takes your picture, adjusts light and colour to match the scene and provides you with your own set of virtual holiday snaps.
It looks like a lot of fun to use and you can already download the demo and have a go at playing Godzilla in New York, scuba dive a coral reef and even look pensive in a moody black and white scene. Grab the demo and find out more at the Activate3D’s website.
Happy Box (short film)
Finally here’s a really fun way that Kinect has been used – to create a 3D animated short. Created by Little Green Dog, Happy Box is based on the webcomic Brudders by Greenlaw and used a Kinect to capture motion and bring characters to life.
The film is under 2 minutes long but it took two Kinect sensors, 17 shots and an hour-long shoot to achieve the desired effects. The film was then edited together over a month and you can see the results below.
The Kinect is changing the way we interact with and create media. After initial heel-dragging from Microsoft the Kinect SDK is now ready for Windows and the company are even embracing tinkerers. If you know of any Kinect hacks, have created anything yourself or would like to in the future then leave your thoughts in the comment box below this article.