I was kind of surprised but not totally, when I saw that announced in a tweet. Thanksgiving dinner this year at our place culminated in the family taking turns busting a move to Dance Central on Xbox Kinect and both my niece and sister walked away saying “I need one of those”. Sure the games are fun, but when you stop to think about it what’s really amazing is the technology behind it: infrared camera, laser depth sensors, microphone array, all for about $150! Obviously they did something right as Guinness World records confirmed it as the fastest selling consumer electronics device ever. It sold an average 133,333 units a day for a total of 8 million units in 60 days From November 2010 to January 3, 2011.
That’s the hardware, but what Popular Mechanics is talking about is the software. The software that you and I can write! Because you can download the Software Development Kit. This is where things start to get really cool. Because now we can start using all that amazing hardware to do neat stuff! It’s amazing what people are coming up with: nerf gun cubicle protection, or jazzing up the reception room. This version of the SDK is a beta and has been released so enthusiasts, students and faculties out there can get in and play with the capabilities of the Kinect device. So for now its for research and fun, but the Kinect site does mention they expect to release a commercial version at a later date.
The SDK has APIs for raw sensor streams to collect data from the depth sensor, color camera sensor, and the microphone array. You can use an API to do skeletal tracking (this one is definitely one of the cooler features to play with). With the microphone array and APIs in the SDK you can do noise suppression and echo cancellation to identify the sound source and integrate with a speech recognition API as well. You can see a fun example using skeletal tracking and speech recognition with a Kinect controlled RoboSapien.
It’s fun to play with but a lot of universities are doing serious research on what you can do with Kinect as well. Popular Mechanics mentions the UC Davis students who developed 3D videoconferencing, University of Minnesota is using it as a tool to identify autism, ADD, and OCD in kids. There is huge potential when you combine the hardware, the SDK, and the imagination of the worlds developers! The Kinect was so cool that people were hacking it before the SDK was released. Great to see a real SDK out and supported to encourage innovative development.
The entire SDK is under 100MB. You don’t have to have an Xbox to play with the SDK, you can just buy the Kinect sensor unit and connect it to your PC. I have a Kinect already, and would love to start coding but i guess I’ll have to wait until my son finishes dancing “Don’t Sweat the Technique” first