MARCH 7, 2011

Kinect hacks: Plastic people and virtual landscapes
By Jacob Aron, New Scientist, March 7, 2011

Fabricate Yourself combines Microsoft's Xbox Kinect system and 3D printing in a match made in geek heaven. The Kinect sensor captures your pose as a 3D model, then passes it to the printer to create a small 3D puzzle piece. Roughly half an hour later, out you pop, frozen in plastic like a mini Han Solo.

The system was developed by Karl Willis for the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference in Madeira, Portugal. It allowed delegates to produce a near-instant physical record of themselves, a 3D analogue of the Polaroid photo. "Ideally we would like to be able to produce these much much faster," says Willis. "Unfortunately for 3D printing, it seems we are still some way off this reality."

If you don't fancy your own plastic replica, how about constructing a virtual world? Magrathea builds an island landscape based on real-life objects, transforming your desk clutter into hills and valleys. It was created by Paul Miller and Timothy Sherman as part of an interactive art and computer design course at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The pair suspend the Kinect above a table and use its depth reading to create a 3D model of corresponding height that rises out of a virtual sea. The software automatically applies grassy and rocky textures depending on the height and slope of the model, constructing a realistic-looking landscape. You can even use sand to sculpt your perfect island home, though it might jam your stapler if you're not careful.

Finally, it seems that Sony has been eyeing the popularity of Kinect hacking and now wants to encourage similarly creative uses of its own motion controller, the PlayStation Move. Sony says it plans to release a piece of software dubbed that will stream Move data from the PlayStation 3 to your PC, allowing programmers to easily build their own Move applications.