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Kinect Used To Help the Visually Impaired

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the kitchen-sink-peripherals dept.

Hardware Hacking 29

Zothecula writes "The decidedly low tech white cane is still one of the most commonly used tools to help the visually impaired get around without bumping into things. Now, through their project called NAVI (Navigation Aids for the Visually Impaired), students at Germany's Universität Konstanz have leveraged the 3D imaging capabilities of Microsoft's Kinect camera to detect objects that lie outside a cane's small radius and alert the wearer to the location of obstacles through audio and vibro-tactile feedback." In addition, Kinect is being used to "manipulate medical images during surgery without having to leave the operating room and scrub back in," and in more artistic ways as well.

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Kinect (2, Interesting)

maroberts (15852) | about 3 years ago | (#35596758)

Should be able to manipulate images like in Minority Report with it. Does seem to be one device from Microsoft that it is hard to criticize. If only their mobile phones were as innovative....

Re:Kinect (3, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 3 years ago | (#35596774)

All microsoft did was license the Kinect and it's software from PrimeSense and slap a badge on it.

Re:Kinect (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 3 years ago | (#35596832)

I know it's just a rendering...
http://www.primesense.com/?p=487 [primesense.com] ...but why is the Kinect so much larger than their reference design?

Re:Kinect (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#35596974)

It could also be that the reference design is a bit... optimistic... about thermals(or case in that render is supposed to be 3/4 cm of solid aluminum...) It is possible that MS was just jumpy after the RROD incidents; but I'm guessing that they didn't add some extra volume and a fan just because they really wanted some moving parts and a higher BOM cost.

Apparently the laser dot-pattern projector unit even has a peltier element(according to iFixit's teardown). That means both higher costs and nontrivially increased power requirements. It also suggests that reliable operation of that critical part requires not merely good heat dissipation(for which a little chunk of finned copper and some airflow are sufficient) but temperature stability.

I'm not going to accuse Primesense of lying, they know their product better than I do; but the Kinect's thermal design suggests that either MS is seriously gun-shy about overheating incidents, or the technology being used is touchier than one might expect, or expect to cool in that reference enclosure.

Re:Kinect (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35596900)

I love how quick you are to say that, as if it mattered at all. That's...offtopic at best. A special variety of flamebait where you try to shut down any hint of non-criticism for Microsoft. PrimeSense deserves credit, but you only gave them credit incidentally in your mission to remove credit from Microsoft.

It's like somebody said Firefox was a good product from Mozilla, and you replied "all Mozilla did was license (via GPL) Netscape and slap an icon on it". Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with Firefox. And it's not really accurate: Netscape code is just one piece of the puzzle of Firefox, although a very important one; likewise, PrimeSense is a very important piece of the Kinect puzzle, but not the whole thing.

It's not like PrimeSense was or is selling these to consumers en masse and Microsoft is just stealing their thunder or something.

Re:Kinect (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 3 years ago | (#35597574)

Uh, Firefox was built more or less from the ground up. You might recall that the Mozilla Foundation used to have a browser actually called "Mozilla" ... that was the rebranding of Netscape. Firefox is completely different from Netscape.

Re:Kinect (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#35596786)

The hardware(though apparently not the supporting software used on the XB360) is basically pure Primesense [primesense.com]. However, given the 'you-have-to-ask-and-don't-want-to-know' pricing of previous Primesense-based products, it was quite nice of Microsoft to deliver the first one priced for the mass market...

Re:Kinect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35599026)

Oh, so you seem to have evidence that Microsoft did absolutely nothing to improve upon what they licensed. Please share this evidence with everyone else too..

Oh thats right.. you're a troll.

Although this story should be more familiar around here. The entire open source movement is built around taking existing successful proprietary products and creating knock-off open source clones. ;-) See how that troll works both ways..

Huge amount of respect to Microsoft (4, Insightful)

awjr (1248008) | about 3 years ago | (#35596782)

Microsoft have quietly sat there and let people play and even gone as far as to begin the process of releasing an official Windows API for the device and the sales figures for the Kinect are through the roof. It's an amazing piece of kit.

If this had been Sony this would have been a legal fight from beginning to end.

Re:Huge amount of respect to Microsoft (1)

somersault (912633) | about 3 years ago | (#35596908)

If this had been Sony this would have been a legal fight from beginning to end.

Sure about that [codelaboratories.com]? These guys are even charging for some of their PS3 Eye development software and don't seem to have been sued yet..

Re:Huge amount of respect to Microsoft (1)

unapersson (38207) | about 3 years ago | (#35597100)

Didn't Microsoft mumble so vague legal threats to begin with, back when the Linux drivers first came out, but then went quiet when they realised they didn't have a leg to stand on?

Re:Huge amount of respect to Microsoft (2)

Xest (935314) | about 3 years ago | (#35597286)

I think that thing was really a massive misunderstanding.

At issue was talk of "hacking" the Kinect, when really people were just figuring out how to interface with it. What Microsoft seemed to be concerned about and threatening about was people actually hacking it to give them an unfair advantage in Kinect based games as opposed to simply interfacing with it via a PC.

It seemed to come down to abuse of the term hacking.

Re:Huge amount of respect to Microsoft (1)

Kashgarinn (1036758) | about 3 years ago | (#35597114)

I'm guessing that they are recuperating the cost of each item by selling the item above that cost, not like with the Xbox and PS3 where they expect to recuperate the cost from sales of games.

If they are happy with the profit for each purchase of the item, why not allow people to do what they want with the items? it just makes sense.

Re:Huge amount of respect to Microsoft (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 3 years ago | (#35597186)

I'm guessing that they are recuperating the cost of each item by selling the item above that cost, not like with the Xbox and PS3 where they expect to recuperate the cost from sales of games.

Its probably given XBox (and games) sales a second wind, especially as the XBox has been seen as an also-ran to the PS3 and even the Wii until the Kinect came out

More money to come (1)

DrYak (748999) | about 3 years ago | (#35597206)

If they are happy with the profit for each purchase of the item, why not allow people to do what they want with the items? it just makes sense.

Because they could be making even more money by selling similar services, or by selling specially licensed variations of the device.

Imagine : A special "Medical usage"-certified Kinect. With Windows XP/Vista/Se7en drivers (that only work with said certified version). And a some medical manipulation software (closed source and works only with above drivers).

Historically, in the past, Microsoft has already been in situation where they've tried to release their own in-house product, when some 3rd party stuff seemed to start being attractive. (On-the-fly compression, every now and then some anti-virus, etc.)

Currently, they are happy to sell kinect units and let the users do whatever pleases them. But as soon as some application of this technology starts to show success, you can bet Microsoft will try to sell its own version of it and try to shut down competition by any mean, as they've always been doing for the past years.

Re:More money to come (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#35597570)

I suspect that any real displeasure would come from Primesense, rather than Microsoft(or, from Microsoft because of a contractual obligation to Primesense)...

The Kinect is, by a substantial margin, the cheapest available version of Primesense's proprietary ranging and imaging setup. It is also, to the best of my knowledge, the only remotely consumer-available one that is a freestanding USB device. They might have scored some embedded design wins somewhere, maybe vending machines or such; but other than that your options are 1). Kinect 2). Talk to Primesense and open the checkbook.

Clearly, Kinect has volume that Primesense could only dream of in other cases, so I'm sure that the small per-unit fees are just fine by them. However, they almost certainly wanted Kinect to be a "for silly little games on xbox only" item, to allow price discrimination and the continued sale of their much higher margin, albeit lower volume, specialty products.

Now that Kinect can plug into basically any standard PC, and has a decent set of OSS 3rd party supporting software, it is harder for them to do that. They can still, presumably, sell upgraded versions of the hardware, to people who really need extra resolution, or a bigger field of view or something; but the floor for basic customers is now "under $200 at Gamestop" rather than "We'd be overjoyed to have your permission to pay only $2k for an academic-only licence..."

As long as it doesn't threaten their cryptographic walled garden, I'm sure MS doesn't care. Units sold are units sold, and they aren't eating a loss on them. Primsense might be less than happy, depending on how their numbers shake down, though...

Re:More money to come (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35603698)

Not really. Primesense is in the business of designing and shipping ASIC designs, not software. In collaboration with Willow Garage, Primesense released the open-source OpenNI drivers [openni.org], which (with the modification of a single XML file) work with the Kinect perfectly. Primesense just wants to ship more units, and this whole business with Microsoft has gotten them huge notoriety.

There are licensing restrictions on what can be done with a Kinect that make it appealing for 3rd parties to look at licensing a Primesense reference design, like Asus has done.


Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35596858)

It's a good thing they're blind and cant see how dorky they look!


Chrisq (894406) | about 3 years ago | (#35596868)

It's a good thing they're blind and cant see how dorky they look!

Its a good thing that your lack of empathy means you cant see how crass you sound.


smelch (1988698) | about 3 years ago | (#35597202)

I fully anticipate being blind sometime in the next 2 decades, my aunt and uncle are blind. Of course they look like dorks, have you seen blind people? They don't know how to work their face.

What about the games? (1)

Holammer (1217422) | about 3 years ago | (#35596954)

Are there any actual good games for it yet? I haven't heard of any, but stories of people doing all sorts of cool hacks with the system are so plentiful collagehumor even took a humorous stab at it.

babys, mommys in brussels getting tear gassed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35596970)

some kind of need for them to be visually impaired? good thing fuddles has innovated a gadget for that.

Alright, that's it. (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | about 3 years ago | (#35598502)

I need sleep.

I just read "Kinect Used to Help the Vaseline Impaired". You really don't want to know what my next thought was.


Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35598566)

You are about to walk into a wall!

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