Dancing waters, Kinect style


Fountains: indoors or out, these decorative displays of water in motion have long mesmerized onlookers. France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, had fountains placed throughout his palace gardens at Versailles; groundskeepers would activate their assigned fountain as the king approached. If only Louis were around today, he might opt to trigger the fountains and control their displays himself, using the latest Kinect sensor.

That’s because Beijing Trainsfer Technology Development, a Chinese high-tech company, has developed a system that lets onlookers control a fountain’s display by gesturing with their arms and legs. The latest Kinect sensor and the Kinect for Windows SDK are at the heart of the system, working together to capture precise body positions and gestures, which are then translated into instructions for the computer that controls the fountain display. For example, when you raise your left arm, water might spray from the left side of the fountain. Or kick out your right leg, which might activate a series of smaller jets of water. The controlling gestures can be customized for each fountain, and, as the video below demonstrates, the system can be used in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Trainsfer began development of Kinect-controlled fountains in February 2013 and 11 months later received a patent from the State Intellectual Property Office of the Peoples Republic of China. Around the same time, Trainsfer learned that Microsoft Research was working on Kinect-controlled fountains as well. Trainsfer’s engineers contacted Microsoft Research and received significant support on perfecting their Kinect-based system. “Our product would not exist without Kinect technology,” says Hui Wang, general manager of Trainsfer. “It has enabled us to create a revolutionary product for the eruptive fountain industry.”

The system became commercially available in April 2015, and Trainsfer is currently negotiating to install it in one of China’s largest theme parks. The company also expects the product to be popular in outdoor parks and plazas, as well as indoors in major office buildings. Trainsfer also anticipates selling advertising space at the fountains, where the allure of controlling the water display should attract and engage passersby.

So maybe it won’t be too long before you can do something that would make you the envy of Louis XIV—thanks to Kinect.

The Kinect for Windows Team

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