Top 15 Kinect Hacks (So Far)

Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect camera turns out to be hacktastic. With a little ingenuity you can control robots with your arms and fire lasers from your head.

Mind, Prepare to Be Blown

You've heard the rumors, and they're true: Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect camera turns out to be hacktastic. Mouse pointers and picture shuffling? So 2010. Why not control robots with your arms? Fire lasers from your head? Steal piles of candy? Fiddle with toilet seats hands-free?

You can, and we'll show you how (or at least who knows how) in our 15 wildest, weirdest Kinect hacks to date.

Image: Composite Kinect teardown courtesy of iFixit

Use Kinect 3D Viewer to Make Creepy Headshots

A Kinect hack on Apple's new Mac Store? Believe it. Laan Labs' Kinect 3D Viewer lets you plug Microsoft's Kinect into an Apple computer USB port and view the depth data that the sensor gathers in dazzling polychromatic 3D.

Map RGB values onto the image to colorize it, or rotate and zoom the image until your head hurts. While you're at it, why not cobble together your very own psychedelically obtuse 1980s music video?

Play Left 4 Dead 2 With Kinect

Want to play Valve's zombie shooter Left 4 Dead 2 on a PC with Kinect? You can. All you need is the Kinect sensor, a PC, a copy of the game, and MxR Labs' FAAST, or Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit.

In case you're wondering what's going on in the still shot at left (from the YouTube demonstration video), a guy is mapping gestures to the game commands, and then executing actions like "move right arm" to aim, "place right foot forward" to walk, and "lift right foot" to jump. It's a lot to remember, and I count as many as 16 discrete gestures here, but if you're cool with turning flashlights on with your feet and kicking enemies with your arms, grab a copy of FAAST and go to town.

Control a Humanoid Robot With Kinect

Here's one you probably can't do at home--well, not unless you collect pricey high-tech robots capable of eerily lifelike human motions.

I don't know what's cooler: the way Kinect seems to track this guy's movements so fluidly, or just the incredibly adaptable robot. Check out the way he has it balancing on one leg. Now if only he had made it dance the Macarena.

Use Kinect to Play Street Fighter IV

Want to fling fireballs with your hands? Who doesn't?

Now you can, courtesy of a University of Edinburgh systems manager's FAAST (Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit) hack designed to give you control of Street Fighter IV's Ken.

Kick to "kick," punch to "punch," and pretend you're expressing with your arms how much dignity you'd sacrifice to do any of this in public to unleash a seething blue ball of fire.

Make Your Xbox 360 Controller Motion-Sensing

Why should Sony's Sixaxis PlayStation 3 controller have all the fun? With Kinect and a copy of the KinEmote beta, you can convert your Xbox 360 controller into a motion-sensing gamepad, too.

That's what this fellow has done, mapping the controls for first-person shooters such as Medal of Honor to gestures that Kinect can recognize. You can reload arcade-shooter-style by flipping the controller (or your hand) to the right, lob grenades by lifting the gamepad, or trigger a knife attacks by shoving it forward.

Play 'Heart and Soul' With Four Feet

Some people eat airplanes. Others drive dinner tables around at 114 miles per hour.

Then you have these guys, using OpenKinect to play "Heart and Soul," two feet each, on an "invisible" virtual piano with floor markers to denote the keys.

What's next, Big 2 starring Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Ballmer?

Use Kinect to Get Free Candy

Free stuff is always welcome, especially free candy. Why not try a Kinect hack that conjures gumballs, or at least appears to by prodding a classic gumball dispenser?

Just place your hand below the sensor-rigged dispenser, and presto--instant mouthful of cavities!

Build Your Own Open-Source Robot

This hack is still prototyping, but the idea sounds reasonable enough: Use Kinect to build a low-cost, ready-to-roll robot that ships with Linux and Robot OS (or ROS) preinstalled.

The parts: a cheap (but powerful) computer, a robotic base (such as a Roomba), the Kinect sensor, ROS, and the mounting hardware to patch it all together. Project lead and MIT roboticist Garratt Gallagher estimates that he could build and sell these little guys for $400 a piece.

Use Kinect to Help You Go to the Bathroom

Listen up germophobes, this one's for you: a toilet you control from a distance with your hands! Well, the seat and flush handle, anyway.

You could interact with your plumbing in never-before-experienced ways. Now if this guy would just rig Kinect to open and close the bathroom door, the obsessive-compulsive cycle would be complete.

Be a Superhero

Who wants to be a superhero? Want to toss killer boomerangs? Want to shoot laser beams from your head? With this Kinect hack and a reasonably powerful PC, now you can.

Gesture to make a "wide shot," fire a bluish-green "Emerium Beam," or whip an "Eye Slugger" at off-screen foes. The tracking software even keeps you "clothed" in costume as you move around Kinect's field of view.

Jump on Furniture With a Superfreaky Avatar

This guy set out to rig Kinect up to XNA Game Studio, Microsoft's runtime toolset for game developers. The result? Think "Oogachaka" dancing baby, only with an avatar that looks like G.I. Joe's Destro pre-chrome-job.

You're looking at a shot of an actual living room here, over which the XNA hack imposes a fully articulated avatar (also removing the human actor from the scene).

Peel Off Your Skin to Probe the Skeleton Beneath

The possibilities for Kinect in the budding field of medical augmented reality seem limitless, as Munich Institute of Technology science staff member Tobias Blum demonstrates.

Blum calls his hack a "magic mirror," and it works by generating an overlay video with "volume visualization" from a CT (computed tomography) image. He believes it could be used for education in anatomical study. And with finer controls, he's probably right.

Dissecting virtual cadavers with your fingers, anyone?

Practice 'Multiple Reality' Acro-Yoga

Acro-yoga blends yoga, acrobatics, and Thai massage. "Multiple reality" acro-yoga mixes all that, and then adds multiple versions of you.

In this arty Kinect hack, author Matt Bell employs custom software to map multiple 3D video streams captured with Kinect onto a single 3D space. Objects are superimposed over each other, occluding in mind-bending ways, and--as Bell puts it--"creating interesting mutant forms."

Duel With Lightsabers on a Martian Space Station

What happens if you hack not one but two remote-linked Kinect cameras? Remote Martian space stations and lightsaber duels, of course.

Employing a virtual reality toolkit called Vrui, a Kinect 3D video plug-in for the toolkit, and a VR viewer for Doom 3 maps (the map depicted here is mars_city1) two guys can duke it out (and dork it up) on a virtual stage.

Virtual fruit not included.

Reach Out and Tweak Someone With Kinect Porn

Come on, you're not really surprised that someone is working on a "game" that lets you air-tweak virtual body parts with Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor, are you? Blame the folks behind "3D Lesbian," "3D Gay Villa," and "3D Sexvilla 2." That would be ThriXXX, a company known for explicit sex games starring detailed 3D models.

All right, I suppose it's kind of creepy when you think about guys--and you know it'll be mostly guys--using "full body or hand gestures, voice commands and even real world sex toy objects like vibrators to control interactions in-game and between two active participants."

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