A new hobby project: Exploring with the Kinect

First of all, happy weekend.

Haven’t published any posts in a while; have a lot of drafts on the go, but nothing quite finished yet. In the meantime, I thought I’d make a quick post. It’s been a pretty good week in the Anderson household. At work, got a nice early Xmas present in the form of an offer of a full time staff position at work. (Accepted!) Which was nice. Contracting is interesting, but there’s something to be said for stability.

At home, I was happy to receive a large UPS parcel from Microsoft – a new Xbox One with Kinect.

Xbox One with Kinect Assassin's Creed Unity Bundle

I’ve been interested in the Xbox, and the Kinect in particular, for some time. I’ve written a few articles on this blog talking about the potential of Kinect and sensor technologies like it to expand the possibilities of training, and computing in general. The prospect of predictable horizons on the work front and a sweet holiday sale on the Microsoft web store helped to seal my decision to take the plunge.

So far, I’m quite pleased with the Xbox One as a product. It’s my first time buying a gaming system in about 20 years; the state of the art has definitely advanced since the days of the Sega Genesis 😉

The setup is easy and smooth. The regular controller plus the voice and gesture based interface of the Kinect allow multiple ways to get things done in terms of navigation and interaction.

The voice and gesture controls are introduced via simple tutorials. A fine example of quick, simple tutorial materials.

The voice controls work nicely. My son and I have had no trouble being understood, and the system OS includes visual cues when speech input is activated as to what commands can be made on any particular screen. It doesn’t quite understand my daughter, but she’s a little younger and missing two of her front teeth.

The gesture control is cool too, though it will take a bit of effort to get smooth and precise with it.

I also ordered the optional adapter to plug the Kinect sensor into a USB connector of a Windows computer for Kinect for Windows apps. This is a cool recent development; previously, to play with Kinect on a Windows computer, you had to buy a special $200 Kinect sensor specifically for that purpose. Allowing people to just use the sensor from their Xbox One opens things up another notch.

I’m looking forward to playing around on a hobby basis with the free Kinect For Windows SDK. Basically, if you have an Xbox One with Kinect, and you buy the adapter, the license is open for you to make Windows apps, even commercial apps, for no extra charge. Kudos to Microsoft for being smart and removing barriers to innovation and experimentation

The SDK, along with lots of guidance and tutorial material available on their website:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/kinectforwindows/develop/learn.aspx

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/kinectforwindows/develop/

I’m excited to explore what sorts of interactions can be made with this technology, with an eye to training applications. In particular, the ability of the Kinect to recognize body movements, facial expressions / emotional states, and even heart rate could potentially add a lot to monitoring learners level of engagement and their performance on motor tasks.

Also on the menu is a Udemy course on Web Development I signed up for a number of weeks ago when it was on sale. (Which I hope to finally get started with over the holiday period!) Together, these two hobby projects should take up a good bit of my spare time over the coming months.

I look forward to sharing anything helpful I learn along the way.