NuiStar, a software development company based in Nanjing, China, has utilized the Kinect sensor and SDK (software development kit) to bring cutting-edge technology to China’s schools and community centers. The centerpiece of the company’s offerings is their natural user interface, or NUI, which is built around the Kinect sensor’s ability to recognize and respond to users’ natural gestures and voice commands. This user-friendly capability truly makes NUI the star of the NuiStar software.
In NuiStar’s Joystar games, children use intuitive body movements to “play” their way through
educational content. Watch the NuiStar video.
The value of natural human-computer interactions is illustrated dramatically in NuiStar’s educational products, which provide digital content for preschool and elementary school levels. Consider the company’s Joystar Preschool Game Series, a collection of 20 game-like apps that encourage youngsters to use intuitive body movements to “play” their way through the content, thereby engaging the students in an immersive and enjoyable learning process.
The body-controlled interactions come naturally to the children, thus reducing the time they spend learning how to play the game and providing educators with a robust and easy-to-implement teaching tool. Moreover, the interface is innately engaging and satisfying to young students, who enjoy being active in the classroom. And Joystar’s games support multiple players, a feature that not only boosts participation rates but also builds cooperative and team-based skills.
In addition, since these Kinect-based, gamified apps get students up and moving, they help to meet China’s requirement that physical activity be integrated into the curriculum. The whole-body engagement inherent in NuiStar’s educational content keeps students physically active even when weather or time constraints preclude traditional outdoor exercises. In initial assessments, a group of 300 preschoolers using NuiStar’s software showed a 33% increase in average exercise time. NuiStar is now working with teachers to implement more robust methodologies to evaluate the efficacy of the games’ educational content.
The NuiStar team has also developed two Kinect-enabled, gesture-controlled training apps for students: one on fire safety and the other on pedestrian safety. The fire safety app tests the student’s knowledge of how to evacuate a burning school and monitors his or her behaviors during a simulated fire in a school building. In the pedestrian safety app, students must walk through a simulated city street scene, practicing traffic safety rules in this virtual-reality environment. By enabling students to respond naturally by using gestures, these pilot apps help them learn how to cope with dangerous situations through an interactive trial-and-error method that is more vivid and engaging than passive instructional methods.
While enhancing learning is NuiStar’s current focus, the company is also bringing its NUI technology to the community technology centers that have become commonplace in China’s towns. These centers are designed to provide local residents with access to technology and services that are otherwise out of their reach. But because many rural residents and older citizens are unfamiliar with modern technology, center employees often spend a great deal of time showing them how to use the hardware and software and putting them at ease with technology. NuiStar’s Kinect-based programs address these issues in a novel way, reassuring new users with an innately natural method of interaction. To new users, waving an arm or making a gesture is infinitely more accessible than typing on a keyboard or using a mouse to navigate menu options.
NuiStar’s Kinect-enabled gesture controls help patrons at a community tech center intuitively
navigate unfamiliar technology. The patrons here are watching a video of the equestrian event
from last summer’sYouth Olympic Games in Nanjing.
Recently, NuiStar added a content management interface tool that lets teachers and community center employees integrate their current multimedia resources into the Kinect system. This further reduces the learning curve for students and local residents, making technology more accessible and useful.
From the classroom to the community center, NuiStar is working to make technology intuitive and interactive for children and adults.
The Kinect for Windows Team