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What is the Kinect Sensor?

The Kinect Sensor is a motion sensing device by Microsoft that is for the Xbox game console and Windows PCs. The second generation of the sensor, Kinect v2 for Windows, was introduced in 2014 and comes with higher specifications than the first version. It can see better, clearer and see more than its earlier version.

The Kinect comes equipped with various cameras and sensors that enable it to see just as well in a dark room than in a well lit one.

  • Color Camera with full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 @ 30fps)
  • Infrared Depth Camera (512 x 424)
  • Microphone Array (4 microphones)

Capabilities of Kinect Sensor

Color Camera

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With the upgraded color camera from the v1, the Kinect v2 is able to capture full HD quality images up to resolutions of 1920 x 1080 pixels. This data can then be used in applications to create virtual mirrors, or to take screenshots to be sent for printing or shared on social media sites.

Infrared Depth Camera

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Unlike the color camera which sees information in the 2-Dimensional plane, the infrared depth camera can see in one more dimension. It can sense high fidelity depth information using infrared sensors and recreate a 3-Dimensional view of what the Kinect sees.

Using this information, the Kinect is also able to perform body tracking from the depth data that it captures. It is smart enough to track up to 6 persons with 25 joints on each person. This information can then be used in applications that require human body interactions for example in healthcare applications for physical therapy, or in interactive games where the user plays by using and moving their bodies.

Gesture “Learning”

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With this information readily available, we are able to ‘teach’ the Kinect to recognize certain gestures programmatically and then bring them another step further by telling the application to perform actions according to the gestures that are being performed.

Some examples of gestures could be swiping, clenching of fists, dragging or a simple raising of an arm. These could be great for interface interactions like the activation of buttons, or the scrolling of a panel.

USAGE & UPCOMING TRENDS

The usage of the Kinect sensor has moved way beyond conventional methods back when it was used mainly to make games for the Xbox console. With the introduction of the Kinect to the PC platform by Microsoft in 2011 and the release of the software development kit (SDK), they had already paved the way for developers to start thinking out of the box to create more interesting and innovative ways to use the Kinect.

Today, many businesses have taken on the challenge of experimenting and implementing Kinect driven systems into their business processes in order to overcome certain barriers in their operations, or even streamline their processes. For example, NASA had developed an application that uses the Kinect to control a robotic arm remotely and are looking to install the system on an International Space Station.

Another common example of Kinect application is when clothing retailers would create a virtual fitting room where the Kinect sensor is used to virtually apply their clothes onto shoppers, allowing them to more quickly see how they would look like in a specific attire of their choice. This allows for a more enjoyable and interactive shopping experience since the shoppers would not have to physically try out the clothes themselves.

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One last example that is perhaps more impactful is the usage of the Kinect’s body sensing capabilities in an application that helps patients with stroke recovery. Created with the aim of providing low-cost home rehabilitation, the application would require patients to carry out exercises that will improve their motor functions as they carry out the activities. These activities might be in the form of games, or simple tasks, and the system would then keep track of their progress in a database. This opens up the possibility of the patient recovering from home or under private care since they need not have to be physically at a center to carry out these exercises.