When Microsoft Research unveiled the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) beta in mid-June, we expected it would be popular with academic and enthusiast developer communities. But even with our high expectations for the SDK, we didn’t anticipate the level of creativity that was demonstrated by the Chinese university students who participated in the Kinect Pioneer Program. Given the opportunity to develop Windows applications that take advantage of the Kinect sensor, these students have created some truly remarkable projects.
Students collaborating and sharing demos at the China Kinect Student Summer Camp
Kinect Pioneer Program Encourages Students to Innovate
The Kinect Pioneer Program was introduced by Microsoft Research Asia in May 2011, in anticipation of the release of the non-commercial Kinect for Windows SDK beta. The program, which involved eight Chinese universities, established 25 student teams that intensely competed to create the most elegant and practical applications. By using Kinect sensor technology, the students generated applications that use depth sensing, voice and object recognition, and human motion tracking, and that are applicable to diverse topics: from education to commerce to culture and history. Six pioneer teams were selected to attend the 2011 China Kinect Student Summer Camp and shared their applications with more than 180 students from the top 30 universities in China.
Team Applications Highlight Kinect Capabilities and Student Talent
The following three applications exemplify the potential of Kinect for Windows as well as the students’ creativity and technical skills.
- Kinect for the Classroom
Team Frinect, from Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science & Technology, designed a new set of presentation tools for teachers: by using the Kinect technology, they created a comprehensive digital workspace that combines a virtual blackboard with Microsoft PowerPoint and powerful multimedia and search functionalities. Thanks to Kinect technology, teachers no longer need chalk; by using gestures alone, instructors can type text, draw graphs and tables, underscore key points from long passages with audio cues, record lessons, and upload them to a server. Most importantly, the application promotes a livelier classroom atmosphere and enhances student engagement.
- Journey Through Time
The students on team Sunnyblue at Xi’an Jiaotong University wanted to display the history and culture of China in an entertaining, interactive way. And what better way to do this than by building a time machine that uses Kinect technology? The resulting application enables users to build an historically accurate 3-D representation of an ancient Chinese city. They choose architecture and decoration styles that are typical of specific dynasties as they create their own living museum. Next, the users’ avatars assume an historically appropriate appearance as they wander around the city and select period clothing, hairstyles, and makeup via Kinect’s object recognition capabilities. After the creation of the setting and characters, the story takes shape. Users invite their online friends to their virtual city, sharing experiences as history comes alive.
- A Night at the Opera
No, team K-FLY from Xidian University, didn’t remake the classic Marx Brothers movie—they went one better and built a virtual platform for recreating the pageantry of the Peking Opera. By using Kinect’s depth-sensing and skeletal-tracking technologies, users’ avatars can apply the traditional Peking Opera makeup and then perform some of the best-loved songs from this treasured art form. This is good news for opera fans, who can upload their performances and share them with friends. The application provides a stage on which opera enthusiasts can display their talents, while its novel and vivid approach is certain to attract new devotees to this traditional art.
Finalists from the Kinect Pioneer Program
Microsoft Research Asia has been delighted with the success of the program. “Through the Kinect Pioneer Program, Chinese students have been given a chance to come into contact with the most cutting-edge technology from Microsoft. It also enables the creativity of Chinese university students to come to life,” says Lolan Song, senior director at Microsoft Research Asia. By developing applications that go beyond traditional games, Chinese students have shown where Kinect can grow and have established the groundwork for the use of Kinect technology in new areas of teaching, culture, and history.
—Guobin Wu, Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia