We’ve seen Microsoft’s Kinect used in countless ways, but 3Gear Systems means to better these predecessors with the beta release of its SDK, which turns all the subtleties of hand movement into actions. In addition to using two Kinect cameras for accuracy, the software compares hand poses against a pre-rendered database so gesture commands are executed with little lag. It offers complete control of a virtual 3D environment from the comfort of your natural desk position, so you won’t have to worry about flail fatigue after long stints. A free public beta is available now until November 30th, at which point bigger companies will require a license, while individuals and small enterprises will continue to get complimentary access. We know what you’re thinking — it’s just another Kinect hack — but we suggest you reserve judgment til you’ve seen the demo below, showing examples of how the API could be used for CAD, medical, and of course, gaming applications.
Xbox 360 software at E3: FIFA 2013 / Madden 2013 gaining Kinect voice commands; Halo 4, Fable, Forza Horizon and Gears of War showcased
No new hardware for Microsoft at E3? No problem. Clearly, this year’s all about software for the Xbox 360, with both FIFA 2013 and Madden 2013 confirmed for release with Kinect support. Aside from letting you flail to and fro in order to make plays, both titles will also support voice commands, right down to understanding multiple dialects in the former. As for Madden? There’s some pretty intense voice integration, enabling one Joe Montana to actually call plays and direct the huddle with his voice here at the E3 stage. The demo was unsurprisingly awesome, and we’re told to expect it on store shelves on August 28th. For those who aren’t exactly “sports-inclined,” there’s also Fable and Halo 4 — two titles that’ll supposedly make this year the “best ever” for Xbox 360 software.
If there’s a large display as part of your workstation, you know how difficult it can be to keep track of all of your windows simultaneously, without missing a single update. Now imagine surrounding yourself with three, or four, or five jumbo LCDs, each littered with dozens of windows tracking realtime data — be it RSS feeds, an inbox or chat. Financial analysts, security guards and transit dispatchers are but a few of the professionals tasked with monitoring such arrays, constantly scanning each monitor to keep abreast of updates. One project from the MIT Media Lab offers a solution, pairing Microsoft Kinect cameras with detection software, then highlighting changes with a new graphical user interface.
Perifoveal Display presents data at normal brightness on the monitor that you’re facing directly. Then, as you move your head to a different LCD, that panel becomes brighter, while changes on any of the displays that you’re not facing directly (but still remain within your peripheral vision) — a rising stock price, or motion on a security camera — are highlighted with a white square, which slowly fades once you turn to face the new information. During our hands-on demo, everything worked as described, albeit without the instant response times you may expect from such a platform. As with most Media Lab projects, there’s no release date in sight, but you can gawk at the prototype in our video just after the break.
How do you weigh yourself when there’s no gravity keeping you down? Well, you can calculate your mass by sitting on an oscillating spring and comparing its standing frequency to your riding frequency (NASA’s current method), or you could rig up a Kinect sensor to tell you when you’re getting fat. Carmelo Velardo, a Eurocom computer scientist in Alphes-Maritimes, France, is developing the latter option. Working with colleagues at the Italian Institute of Technology’s Center for Human Space Robotics, Velardo paired the Kinect sensor’s 3D modeling digs with a database of weight to body measurements of 28,000 people — the resulting system can guess your weight with a 97 percent accuracy.
NASA scientist John Charles notes that while the rig works well on the ground, it might hit some snags in space. Microgravity can shift water around in an astronaut’s body, changing their density and potentially throwing off the Kinect setup’s readings. Still, Charles says the technique “appears feasible,” and suggests pairing it with the existing weight measurement tools might “provide insights into changes in body density that might be illuminating.” Velardo hopes to test the system in parabolic flight soon. If he succeeds, not even outer space will protect us from the shameful judgment of video game peripherals.Now if you’ll excuse us, we have some squat-thrusts to get to.
Autumn is fast approaching — and you know what that means: it’s round about time for an Xbox Dashboard update. Sure, we got a peek of Microsoft’s upcoming harvest back at E3, but the good folks from Redmond invited us to take a closer look at what they’re calling the “most significant update to the Dashboard since NXE.” Senior project Manager Terry Ferrell was on-site to walk us through an early engineering beta and show us how an updated Metro UI, Bing search and deeper Kinect integration is going to change the way folks manage their entertainment content.
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Turns out, the home of Mario and Sonic is still a tough world to penetrate for Microsoft’s gaming division, despite its near-decade presence in the market. While homegrown Nintendo and Sony products receive much of the love and Yen, newly-hatched industry outsiders are left to fend for themselves. Having finally broached the one million mark in Japan for its five-year-old console, MS is shifting the focus to its Kinect launch failures. Unsurprisingly, the full-body motion control accessory hasn’t jump-kicked its way into as many Japanese hearts and households as the Ballmer-led company would like, so it’s shuffling the deck at its Japanese outpost in order to spin the strategy a bit differently. Announced via press conference today, Takashi Sensui — former head of the Home and Entertainment division — will now oversee the newly created Interactive Entertainment Business division. Also in the works are some very culturally-tailored IPs for the Kinect platform: the Suda51-produced Codename D and a version of Steel Battalion from Capcom. Whatever the result of this renewed push may be, it sure won’t be long before Microsoft gets to give Japan the old next generation college try. After all, third time’s the charm.
Microsoft asked us to drop by at E3 to chat up a generically identified “Xbox executive,” imagine our surprise when we found Kudo Tsunoda hiding behind door number six. Wearing his signature shades, Kudo gave us a brief primer on what makes Kinect great, or at least a heavy endorsement of Kinect Fun Labs. While we can certainly dig the bit-sized gadgetry Fun Labs has to offer, we like to dig deeper — will the Kinect hardware ever be integrated into other devices? Any plans for Microsoft’s 3D tracking camera and Windows 8? Kudo did his best to feed our ravenous appetite for answers.
It wasn’t easy on poor Kudo, of course — more than once we saw him glance longingly at his wrangler, a friendly PR rep keeping him from spilling the beans on anything too awesome. Probing about Windows 8 and Kinect produced one such look, and while our man very lightly suggested that Microsoft does more than games — and that the dual-camera device might start showing up on other devices — the big M had nothing to announce at that time. Kudo did go on to say, however, that we can expect to see new, innovative, “oh my gosh, I can’t believe Kinect can do that” experiences at E3 year after year, citing this year’s keynote for some recent examples. While we couldn’t coax any leaks about Xbox or Kinect successors out of the man, it’s good to see Microsoft’s continued dedication to improving the platform.
Since the dawn of Kinect hacking, we’ve seen cameras strung together (or rotated) to create 3D, video game-like environments, while others have tweaked it for headtracking. Others, still, have used it for teleconferencing (albeit, the flat, two-dimensional variety). Now, a team of researchers have gone and thrown it all together to achieve 3D video chats, and if we do say so, the result is greater than a sum of its parts. The group, based out of UNC-Chapel Hill, uses 3D mapping (and at least four Kinects) to render the video, and then employs headtracking on the receiving end so that people tuning in will actually see the live video in 3D, even without wearing 3D glasses. The result: a tableau that follows you as you move your head and spin around restlessly in your desk chair waiting for the meeting to end. That’s mighty impressive, but we can’t help but wonder: do you really want to see your colleagues in such lifelike detail? Have a gander at the video and decide for yourself.
No matter how hard Skype and others try to convince us otherwise, we still do most of our web communications via text or, if entirely unavoidable, by voice. Maybe we’re ludittes or maybe video calling has yet to prove its value. Hoping to reverse such archaic views, researchers at the MIT Media Lab have harnessed a Kinect’s powers of depth and human perception to provide some newfangled videoconferencing functionality. First up, you can blur out everything on screen but the speaker to keep focus where it needs to be. Then, if you want to get fancier, you can freeze a frame of yourself in the still-moving video feed for when you need to do something off-camera, and to finish things off, you can even drop some 3D-aware augmented reality on your viewers. It’s all a little unrefined at the moment, but the ideas are there and well worth seeing. Jump past the break to do just that.
If your foremost dream is to jack into a dystopian cyberpunk reality where hackers play with human brains (and you also happen to love Japanese anime), you’d best book your flight to Tokyo right now — a Shibuya department store has set up a basic cyberspace simulator straight out of Ghost in the Shell. That’s the film Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. Solid State Society, to be precise, which just got a stereoscopic 3D re-release in Japan this week, and in its honor creative services company Kayac set about constructing a high-quality Kinect hack. Microsoft’s depth camera tracks the lean of your body, while the honeyed virtual reality is projected onto a pair of nearby walls, and it’s your objective to slap the Tachikoma tank silly without falling over yourself. Get a peek at what it’s like to play with in the video above.
Just because Microsoft’s Mediaroom IPTV service is finally supported on the Xbox 360 after years and years of expectations (as seen above) doesn’t mean the rumor mill stops, with rumors surfacing of a “Project Orapa” that reportedly combines Xbox Live, Kinect and IPTV service all in one. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley has heard from tipsters that it’s related to the previously rumored Ventura multimedia project and will let subscribers to Mediaroom powered IPTV services like U-Verse use Kinect’s gesture and voice recognition like ESPN3 already does to control their TV experience while Xbox users would get “more content.” We should find out how much of this is reality and how it ties into previous rumors pretty quickly, since it’s apparently going to be in testing this month, and available by the upcoming holiday season.