Microsoft's body sensing game system is pretty cool, but it took the hacking community to unleash Kinect's full potential. The software behind Kinect's tricks was broken open just over a month ago, and here are our five favorite hacks so far.
1. Immersive Virtual Reality
By combining head tracking and some fancy goggles, Kinect can turn your body into someone else's body inside a virtual reality environment. You don't necessarily have to become an imaginary Japanese pop star, but why not? When you look down, the goggles show you a virtual body that moves like your body, and you can physically interact with virtual objects too. If you're daring, you can even virtually walk out along a virtual balance beam a couple hundred virtual feet in the virtual air. If that's not enough virtualness for you, jump off the beam to experience a virtual death.
2. World of Warcraft Control
World of Warcraft is the stereotype of sedentary gaming, and while you may not be able to raid effectively using a Kinect system, you do get enough exercise to maybe offset a one or two bags of Cheetohs. Leaning forward moves your character forward, and leaning back moves it back. Various hand and arm motions target mobs and cast spells. The interface is easy to upgrade and can be adapted to other games. Oh, and a Draenei mage? Seriously? Get some skills, dude. DEATH TO ALLIANCE!
3. Autonomous Robots
Since Kinect provides three dimensional depth mapping data, robots can use the sensor to detect and avoid obstacles. At the same time, they can create detailed 3D maps of their environment, all with this one sensor that's estimated to cost about 60 bucks. Equivalent systems on military robots might work slightly better, but they cost easily a hundred times as much.
Via UC Berkeley
4. Telepresence in Star Wars and Doom 3
Kinect can be used to create entire virtual environments, and multiple systems can work together to put different people in the same place. It's sort of like telepresence, except inside Doom 3. And with Lightsabers. Now they just need to put all the monsters back in to make those Lightsabers necessary for survival. Trying to get to a meeting in your virtual office? Good luck not getting killed eaten on the way!
5. Gesture Control à la Minority Report
You don't have to be Tom Cruise or live in the future to get ahold of a slick gesture recognition interface. With their emphasis on multimedia PCs, this is one hack that might actually show up in a future Microsoft product. It's cheap, straightforward, and would kick any multimedia browser up about ten notches.
So what's next for Kinect? My own personal fantasy is that Microsoft acknowledges that the hacker community has way more creativity than they can possibly harness (or stifle), and opens up some kind of app store that lets you take advantage of the Kinect hardware outside of the Xbox environment. Alternatively, we may just have to wait for some third party options, but we're getting closer to the day when a Kinect-type sensor comes standard in most electronics.
In the meantime, Kinect has only been open to hacks for like a month and a half, so there's definitely a lot more awesomeness in the works.