The Kinect has become an indie revolution, open sourced and hacked to provide a wealth of effects we haven’t had access to for augmented reality. The Kinect Hacks site is doing a terrific job covering the revolution, but I want to make my bid for what I want the Kinect to do outside its comfort zone.
The Kinect so far has been wedded to the TV, mostly because it’s a gaming device. But the company behind the technology, PrimeSense, recently raised $50 million. We can only suspect they’re going to turn their hot new commodity into a device that can work with more than just the PC or an Xbox.
When that product hits the market, understanding the world will be much easier for computers and therefore, will make augmented reality more advanced. Now I know most of these ideas aren’t AR in the strictest terms (I know my friend Rouli wouldn’t deem them AR,) but they exist in the same spectrum and they’re important for the overall development of the technology. Without better sensors, AR is doomed to stay stuck in the smartphone. Plus, sensing the world is one-half the AR equation (see the RIM scale for more details.)
Here are five things I want the Kinect to do:
1) I want the Kinect to drive my car, at least on the highway, while I’m busy doing something else. Google wants to do the same thing and I think the Kinect could help them.
2) Conveyance in a factory setting takes a lot of manpower and is woefully wasteful. Utilizing cheap sensors that can see people and sense their environment would make getting widgets from one place to another easy.
3) Mapping indoor locations would allow building AR environments in your local Walmart so mapping out your shopping route can be done with a simple app.
4) Telepresence robot, 3D glasses, and a computer screen could give people with massive physical disabilities a way to explore the world around them.
5) Sensing system for the blind that could give them clues to what was happening around them. The system could use facial recognition and whisper what it saw in your ear.
These are just a few possibilities with the Kinect sensor as it gives computers a window into our world.