As TechRepublic’s Mark Kaelin mentioned last week, Microsoft has released the official Kinect SDK and Runtime for Windows along with a new, $250 version of the Kinect. Given that knowledge, you might think that there will be no competition with Microsoft for development of Kinect-enabled technologies, but that isn’t the case.
In January 2011, I wrote in Geekend about a group of doctoral candidates at the University of Southern California who created FAAST (the Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit), which uses the Kinect sensor and the OpenNI and PrimeSense software to enable control of any PC software or game. Well, it turns out they’re not giving up. The FAAST project page indicates they are expecting the release of version 1.0 of their software to coincide with the Windows SDK, so we should see it anytime now.
I tried their software a few weeks ago thanks to a recent Kinect acquisition. Running version 0.09, I was able to (with varying success) control the movement of one of my World of Warcraft characters and do some basic attacks. I even improved on (in my opinion and for my style) their offered WoW bindings file.
The World of Warcraft config file from the FAAST used the action of marching in place to make your WoW character move. I found that to be a little cumbersome and changed it to just leaning the body forward. Also, their config file required the player to lean to the side to make their character turn. I found that counter-intuitive and changed it to turning the upper body to make the character turn. In my config file, leaning to the left or right causes your character to strafe. One final edit not included in the file I have shared would be to swap the left and right hand actions (mouse control of camera and action abilities, respectively) for left-handed players like myself. I felt much more comfortable using my left hand to activate abilities and my right hand to move the camera.
While it was a bit jumpy and sensitive at times, the FAAST software can only get better as they continue developing it.
Board of Awesomeness
Another non-Microsoft Kinect application is Board of Awesomness from Chaotic Moon Labs. This project takes the Xbox 360 Kinect, a Samsung Windows 8 laptop, and a Phidget USB module and mounts them on a custom motorized longboard capable of reaching speeds of 32 MPH. The Kinect passes the movement data via the Phidget into the laptop running custom software, which then passes the information back out to the motor to make the board move forward, backward, and stop. While the project’s web page is a bit scarce on the how-to of coming up with programming for this type of unit, the Phidget web page offers some clues. Phidgets have a powerful API that can be tapped from virtually any modern programming language.
Have you looked at the Kinect for Windows SDK? Do you plan to develop any applications for the Kinect? What about the FAAST software: Have you connected up your Xbox 360 Kinect and controlled your computer? Do you think this type of computing will become mainstream or just be a niche? Share your comments.