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360 Kinect – more than a game controller, a game changer!

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In 2008, Microsoft introduced their groundbreaking platform for controller free gaming experience. The code name was “Project Natal”. For the first time, gamers were able to interact with video games with a single type of controller – their body! This project was released on November 2010 as KINECT for XBOX 360.

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The Technology

By interpreting your body moving (also known as Gesture) the system translates your actions into digital pixels and embeds them into the virtual scene on the TV. In addition, the user can interact with the KINECT via voice commands that are interpreted by the voice recognition of the system. Together, the KINECT creates a natural experience when interacting with the system.

The technology was primarily developed by 2 companies:

1. RARE – A UK based company that was acquired by MS in 2002 and developed the software.

2. Prime Senses – An Israeli company that developed the hardware and drivers

The KINECT sensor is made of several components that installed in a horizontal motorized bar:

1. RGB Camera that is responsible for capturing the colors

2. 3D Depth Sensors analyzing your position and body within the room

3. Multi-array microphones

The Excitement

Since its launch day (about 25 days ago), MS sold 2.5 million units of KINECT around the globe. Just for comparison, this is twice as many iPads sold in the first 25 days. There is no doubt that MS may have a big hit on their hands. However the excitement doesn’t end with high sales. About a week after the launch of KINECT, a group of software developers/hackers named OpenKinect.org released a set of open source drivers for integrating the KINECT sensor with a computer. Their original version was running on Linux but they released drivers for PC shortly after that. Within minutes, YouTube and other news sources were blogging about the open source drivers. I myself could not resist the temptation and downloaded the drivers to my lab pc. 15 minutes later I was able to see my 3D analyzed image on the screen. It really works!!!

Just a couple of days later and another exciting video hit YouTube. This time, a company from Germany named EVOLUCE is using the open source drivers and KINECT sensor to control Windows 7 desktop and Windows Media Center.

What’s Next

Clearly the KINECT brings a groundbreaking technology and a new dimension of user experience to interaction with gaming and computer. It also seems that the software development community is adopting this concept and technology in light-speed and with great excitement.

One area where KINECT could create a real revolution is in Home Control. Currently dominated by ultra-expensive touch panels and other control devices, most control systems will look rather primitive compared to KINECT. Imagine controlling your lights by sliding your hand down in the air.

Currently the KINECT is in its first stage and is pretty impressive nevertheless. I speculate that within just a few months we are going to witness a flood of applications utilizing the KINECT to control the PC, MAC and other devices at home. Do you remember the movie Minority Report? I think we are not that far from this reality.

Eyal Kattan

Media Nexus Inc – www.medianexus.us

Tell us your thoughts on the possibilities the Kinect brings to the home system integration industry.  Is it useful or just a toy?

About the Author

Eyal KattanEyal Kattan is the owner of Media Nexus Inc - an integration company specializing in the design and integration of AV and computer technologies for residential and commercial projects. He has over 14 years of professional software engineering and user experience, analyzing business needs and functional requirements, designing, developing and managing large interactive web applications through the full life cycle of the project.View all posts by Eyal Kattan

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