What we love most about the Kinect isn't the motion controlled gaming, but the innovate software hacks programmers are coming up with. One of the latest comes from researcher Akihiro Nakamura from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) in Japan. Nakamura took the OpenNI API and developed a hack that lets users control their Roomba devices with a series of gestures, replacing the need to bend over and push buttons.
Remember when Steve Ballmer said that Microsoft would officially support Kinect on PC “in the right time”? Well, apparently he probably could've waited another couple seconds to add “right about... now.”
According to WinRumors, Microsoft's currently connecting the dots on an SDK and official drivers for Kinect on PC. Barring any unforeseen stumbling blocks, both pieces of the puzzle will be available for normal folk who haven't hacked their Kinect to pieces “in the coming months.”
More specifically, the drivers will be distributed as part of a beta program, and general Kinect support may soon appear in a Community Technical Preview of Microsoft's XNA development tools.
In other words, the wait's nearly at an end. Soon, you'll have a tiny, slowly evolving robo-eye watching your every action in your office as well as your living room. And before you know it, there'll only be one thing those seemingly harmless little cameras voluntarily recognize: a blood-spattered white flag.
Speaking with the BBC, CEO Steve Ballmer plainly stated that Microsoft "will support [Kinect on PC] in a formal way in the right time."
But hey, who needs a bunch of lightning-quick geniuses creating the all-purpose interface of tomorrow when you can have a range of wonky games spanning three whole genres? With winners like Fighters Uncaged, the affectionately named “Spongebob game,” and EA Sports Get Fit With Mel B On The Biggest Loser While Getting Hit By A UFC Trainer, we think the question pretty much answers itself.
Call it a coincidence or call it Kinect-gate, but as far as ten-year-old Adam Winnifrith is concerned, Microsoft's Kinect motion controller caused his Xbox 360 to give up the ghost, the UK's BBC reports.
"We plugged [the Kinect] in the day we got it but only played it a few times before we got the red lights. The next day when we tried it again we still had the red rings of death and haven't been able to use it since," Winnifrith said.
Microsoft says there isn't any link between the Kinect and the infamous RRoD syndrome, saying the Kinect has been "designed to work with every Xbox 360 sold to date." That comes as little consolation to gamers complaining on message boards of similar problems to Winnifrith's.
"I have never had a single issue with my Xbox. I got the Kinect for Christmas and the screen starting freezing randomly. Then on New Year's eve...BAM I got the red ring. Very sad," one user claims.
Despite a handful of complaints, Microsoft contends "there is no correlation between the three flashing red lights error and Kinect. Any new instances of the three flashing red lights error are merely coincidental."
Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing add-on for the Xbox 360 hasn't even been on the market for two months, yet we're already impressed with what the modding community has been able to do with the device. This is just the beginning, folks.
According to Eurogamer, an upcoming firmware release will improve the device's compression technology and depth sensor. As it currently stands, the Kinect detects movement at 30 frames per second at a 320x240 resolution, which is dictated by an artificial limit placed on the USB controller to use around 15MB/s even though it's capable of 35MB/s.
What Microsoft is trying to do is double the spec of the depth camera to 640x480 via a dashboard update. In theory, this could make the Kinect capable of detecting finger movements and hand rotations, which would open a whole new world for the modding community to play around with.
Maybe it's not the whole gimmick of motion controlled gaming that's holding you back from pairing your Xbox 360 console with a Kinect camera. Maybe, just maybe, you thought to yourself, "If only Microsoft made a Kinect laden with crystals and jacked up the price fourfold, then I'd be all in!"
If that sounds like you, then you're one lucky son-of-a-gun. Dutch website DSStyles.com is selling a customized Kinect plastered with over 5,000 genuine Swarovski crystals adhered to the front, back, and everywhere else.
"With over 5,000 pcs [of] genuine Swarovski crystals adhered, it can simply be acted as the sparkling light at night," DSStyles says. "Especially when playing the hottest game Kinect Dance, with these Swarovski crystals, it is just like dancing in the disco!"
Just like it, huh? In that case, at only $632, how could you not buy one?
Prior to its launch, Kinect was mostly viewed as a gaming peripheral. But Microsoft's answer to comparable motion-gaming products from rivals Sony and Nintendo has turned out to be much, much more. Hackers are wallowing in the world of endless possibilities unleashed by the release of open source Kinect drivers. The latest hack has the Kinect perched atop a quadrocopter so it can lend its services as a 3D radar. The Ascending Technologies Pelican UAV uses the data from the sensor to fly autonomously through predefined waypoints while avoiding obstacles. The imaginative brain matter behind this hack belongs to a group of researchers at the Hybrid Systems Laboratory at UC Berkeley.
Microsoft this week announced that strong demand over Black Friday weekend helped bolster retail sales of its Kinect motion control platform to more than 2.5 million units since launching less than a month ago.
"We are thrilled about the consumer response to Kinect, and are working hard with our retail and manufacturing partners to expedite production and shipments of Kinect to restock shelves as fast as possible to keep up with demand," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "With sales already exceeding two and a half million units in just 25 days, we are on pace to reach our forecast of 5 million units sold to consumers this holiday."
By comparison, the Sony Move sold just 1 million units during its first month of sales, while it took Apple's iPad two months to record 2 million units sold.
Kinect hacks seem to be showing up all over the place, but lets face it, using it to control Super Mario pretty much tops the list of what everyone was waiting for right? The proof of concept video which can be found after the jump is an impressive demonstration, even though it looks nearly impossible to accurately control.
The short clip makes for an interesting conversation piece, but after watching it you really have to wonder if Kinect is the gaming controller panacea Microsoft makes it out to be. The launch titles seem to cover off all the most basic mechanics that come to mind, dancing, sports, driving, etc, but is it really useful for anything else? After all, sometimes it really seems like the games are just playing themselves anyway.
I think most Maximum PC readers would agree that it has serious potential as a UI input method, but would anyone really rather play Mario this way? Let us know what you think after the jump.
A group of hackers have garnered a lot of support on “crowd-funding” site Kickstarter for their proposal to develop an open-source hardware-based USB analyzer, which could shorten the time to market of third-party drivers. A joint effort of hackers “bushing” and “pytey” of Team Twiizers and iPhone DevTeam fame, the proposed “OpenVizsla” open source, high-speed USB sniffer had received $28,802 from 251 backers at the time of writing.