Leading With Kinect

WP_000243Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a group of students from the Boston Preparatory Charter Public School. I even wore a tie because these students wear ties as part of their uniform and somehow I felt under dressed without a tie on previous visits. These were tenth graders who were visiting a couple of companies today on field trips. I was talking to them about careers in computer science and information technology. It’s the sort of thing I do regularly. Today I decided to do things a little differently. Usually I show technology at the end if there is time and interest but today I lead with it. Specifically I opened with a simple Kinect demo. People seem to really react well to the Kinect. It is both a different way of interacting with a computer and a wonderful example of how computer science can be involved in some amazing things.

I like to start with the Skeletal Tracker demo that comes with Kinect for Windows (beta). 


Why? Well it opens three windows that show

  • a color coded depth image
  • A stick figure representation of the person or persons in front of the device
  • What the RGB Camera sees

What I like best about the stick figures is that they make it obvious how the Kinect software models the joints and body parts. It’s a more explanatory view than a fancier view with filled out images. Computer science really needs a bit of a hook (see this post from Garth Flint for example Computer Science classes need good bait) to get students interested. I find that the Kinect demo drives a lot of interest in the complexity and power as well as the beauty of computer science. It inspires a lot of deeper questions than many other technologies I have demonstrated.

There are a lot of possibilities with Kinect. There are probably many times more ideas than I could ever think of. One of my hopes is that I can inspire more young people to take the technology we have today and build on it and ultimately help make the world a better place. Kinect is just one piece of technology of course. There are many more interesting exciting things out there. Every year we see students take steps towards using technology to make the world better via Imagine Cup entries. What does the future hold? It’s anyone's guess. But computer and information technology are some of the best ways to make the world better that I know of. So we need more smart hardworking smart thinking young people to go into those fields. That’s why I work hard to help build interest among students.

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