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Indian Engineers Modify Kinect To Help the Blind Walk With Confidence

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the paging-geordi-laforge dept.

Input Devices 59

New submitter albinobee writes "The Kinect for Xbox 360 isn't only about gaming; it can also be used to help compensate for impaired vision, as a team of Indian engineers is working to prove. A device called viSparsh, still in its nascent stage, is a motion sensing belt that can help alert the blind to obstacles that lie in their path."

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H1B Joke? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947417)

Got to ba an H1B joke here someplace!

Re:H1B Joke? (-1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947515)

Got to ba an H1B joke here someplace!

The only H1B joke I could see, which is a bit tasteless, is about how blind DC was, working to increase the numbers as unemployment was rising.

But the Government is usually at least one step behind what's currently happening. Heck, some of the sponsors of that bill, back in the day, were already filing for bankruptcy before the bill made it to the floor, not for labor costs, but because their markets either dried up or never actually existed.

How about modifying a Kinect to detect the presence of Lobbyists?

Nah. I guess that wouldn't work, it would explode within 250 miles of DC.

Re:H1B Joke? (0)

mrops (927562) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948319)

Well here is one.

"WTF dad, why did you come to this forsaken country, India again rejected my H1B application"

Seems rediculous but... (4, Interesting)

hellkyng (1920978) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947425)

The more I hear about Kinect the more it makes it seem like one of the more revolutionary products that Microsoft has ever come out with...

Re:Seems rediculous but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947495)

They bought the design so thank the acquisitions team if anybody.

Dork (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947921)

They bought the design so thank the acquisitions team if anybody.

From whom?

And even then, so what? Every time - I said "every" - someone comes up with a great invention that will help many others, it takes deep pockets to get it to market. Who gives a flying fuck if it's Microsoft?

Oh wait. My bad. The dorks who hate Microsoft for some nebulous reason such as "monopolizing the technology market" or some some such horseshit reason do.

Let me tell you something you dork, if MS is your worst bogeyman then I hate to break to you that they're a gnat compared to what's really out there.

Sleep tight dork.

That goes for the rest of you Slashdot dorks.

Supreme Dork (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948761)

Do you always go ballistic when someone correctly notes that Microsoft – gasp! – made a business acquisition?

Microsoft is a company. Not your extra-special girlfriend. Unclench your shaking little fists and relax a little.

Re:Supreme Dork (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38950303)

Maybe he's Microsoft's "girlfriend" and taking it up the ass for decades.

Re:Dork (3, Informative)

Jyms (598745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950491)

They bought it from a company called 3DV Systems. It was then called the ZCam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZCam).

ACs usually cannot afford Microsoft *any* credit (3, Informative)

benjymouse (756774) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950293)

Project Natal was developed at Microsoft Research Cambridg: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=microsoft-project-natal [scientificamerican.com]

Microsoft used an Israeli company to develop the actual product hardware. This may be the reason why someone could think that MS just "bought" the entire product. Or it could be an opportunity for ./ MS haters to create a myth that MS cannot innovate.

But this was a MSR project all along.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947499)

I don't find that ridiculous. What's ridiculous is that some people thought it was comparable to the wiimote. Kinect won't displace gamepads, but cheap depth-field sensing is too useful to go away.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38949247)

Why would you say that? i haven't gotten to try the new ones but the ones that came with my nephew's Wii were frankly kinda lame. Sure you could do big movements like bowling or tennis, but trying to get precise movements on the RE game he had was more frustration than anything. while I haven't tried the kinect so i have no idea how it does on precise movements I don't see how it could suck worse than them first gen wiimotes. And as to whether they bought it or built it, who cares? Apple bought siri and it seems to be working out for them and its a hell of a lot smarter buy than Balmer trying to buy yahoo.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950433)

I don't find that ridiculous. What's ridiculous is that some people thought it was comparable to the wiimote. Kinect won't displace gamepads, but cheap depth-field sensing is too useful to go away.

And that was Kinect's main advantage. Wiimote, Move, they use special controllers and your games are limited to that.

Microsoft is proving that you can combine Kinect AND controllers. Some games use Kinect's microphone array for voice commands (which does noise and audio cancellation to enable long-range voice recognition). Other suse the cameras to achieve enhanced gameplay. Either way, you can use regular controllers with Kinect.

So games can be Kinect-required and do everything with motion, or Kinect-assisted, where gameplay is augmented with Kinect features but players use normal controllers. That's what makes Kinect special for games.

For hackers, Kinect is a really cheap 3D depth sensing sensor. Equipment like that used to cost in the high 4 digits or low 5 digits, so casual experimentation was not possible. These days, a trip to Best Buy and $150 will get you a decent 3D sensor to play with. Cheap!

Re:Seems rediculous but... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947521)

When I heard about the motion controls on the wii, I thought "This is going to make for some pretty cool games!"

It turned out to be mostly a stupid gimmick, or at best an answer to a question no one asked.

When I heard about the kinect, I thought "Great, another stupid, pointless product no one will use."

Maybe I should buy stock in whatever company makes these [thinkgeek.com] .

Re:Seems rediculous but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947665)

What has really made it so revolutionary is Microsoft's open nature about it. They never tried to lock it down, never bricked anyone's 360 just for installing a different OS, in fact Microsoft actively encouraged people to screw around with their Kinect and see what all the possibilities were.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948689)

What has really made it so revolutionary is Microsoft's open nature about it.

Lol, Except for the bit where they stated they were never going to release a driver, that using it with a PC voided the warranty, and that use for any other purpose was illegal, and threatened anyone who started making a driver.

Fortunately, one of the guys they hired to develop(johnny lee) offered 3k of his own money through a front for the first person to release open drivers for it.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (2)

MimeticLie (1866406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947667)

Notice that all of these stories about Kinect don't actually relate to its stated purpose. Kind of ironic that Kinect seems useful for everything except gaming.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947759)

A lot of the Kinect games are enjoyable.
Perhaps they just don't suit your sense of fun.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (2)

jpwilliams (2430348) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947775)

Actually Microsoft has had plans beyond gaming for the Kinect for some time. They just announced/released the "Kinect for Windows" for Laptops and Desktops, and they have been testing the technology in classrooms and medical facilities, as well as releasing a Kinect SDK for the non-hacker.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948387)

Kind of ironic that Kinect seems useful for everything except gaming.

That would only be ironic if the Kinect had been said to be made "just for gaming" or was listed as not as good for other things and was best suited for gaming.

As it is, it just goes to show that Microsoft created a damned good product at a damned good price point which people are making damned good use of.

Sure, it was marketed for games, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that this is more because it's easier to sell to the larger "gaming" market compared to a far more niche "motion capture" market.

Re:Seems rediculous but... (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38955907)

You seem to be suggesting that modifying it into something to help the blind walk confidently is a bad thing

Re:Seems rediculous but... (2)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#38949191)

The technology was developed by PrimeSense. Microsoft's gaming unit brought it into Microsoft. As I understand it, Primesense was initially aiming to make it part of every television as a remote control device. No longer will you lose the remote behind the couch cushions. The robotics community jumped on the Kinect right away, since high resolution distance measurement of the robot's environment is a long standing problem. Out of the box, though, I think the Kinect in its current form has trouble in outdoor environments since the sun is such a strong IR emitter. That is a generic problem with anything that depends on IR.

Indian engineers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947453)

It's a pleasure to hear news of Indian tech accomplishments that don't have to do either with commodities production or cheap outsourcing. I hope to hear more of this kind of noble work from India -- either because they start doing more of it, or because more of it is being reported.

Re:Indian engineers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947533)

I personally think it's bullshit to even mention the nationality of the engineers in the headline and the article summary.

Re:Indian engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948343)

It would probably pleasure you more if they actually developed this in India.
Instead it's developed at U. Penn, and "The fabrication will be done in the US".

Re:Indian engineers (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950327)

A nice change from developed at Quanta in Taiwan and "the fabrication will be done in China".

Unless of course it will be done in the US in dangerous sweatshops... ;)

Re:Indian engineers (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38955935)

In other words, 'Indian jobs being outsourced to the US'?

Slight medical mark up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947455)

Slap a corporate logo from a medical supper on it and you too can have one for the long price of $50,000

Congratulations! (2)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947487)

Well done to the team who worked on this project. I love hearing about positive contributions like this.

Now if they could only open the eyes... (0)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947489)

of Microsoft execs and get them to forget about Windows Phones.

Indoor use only... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947503)

beings that the Kinect uses unmodulated IR, sunlight will completely wash out the dim IR coming from the Kinect.

Re:Indoor use only... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948041)

beings that the Kinect uses unmodulated IR, sunlight will completely wash out the dim IR coming from the Kinect.

Something to think about .. particularly in areas where mean temperatures tend to be high, so there will be a considerably amount of daytime IR.

I have one of those cute little office helicopters, with an IR controller. Works pretty badly out of doors in direct sunlight, though pretty good on overcast days, morning and dusk.

Re:Indoor use only... (1)

nomel (244635) | more than 2 years ago | (#38959059)

Your helicopter uses modulated IR. The transmitter probably runs at 40kHz (like a tv remote) with an appropriate filter on the receiver side.

When it crashes, so do they ;-) (3, Funny)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947545)

Microsoft has finally embraced and extended the term crash!

Re:When it crashes, so do they ;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947909)

Just last week, one of my Fedora boxes had a kernel panic when running tcpdump. I can't even remember the last time Windows 7 crashed on me.

Indian? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947595)

What's the point of saying "Indian engineer" as opposed to just "engineer"?

Re:Indian? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947713)

What's the point of saying "Indian engineer" as opposed to just "engineer"?

Because it tells you their nationality.
First line in TFA
New Delhi: Mohammed Wasim is a young helpline operator at India's National Association for the Blind [...]

Re:Indian? (2)

Narmi (161370) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947843)

I don't think there would have been any complaints if the story read "a team of German engineers have...".

Re:Indian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38947881)

In fact, when put this way it looks good on themOH GOD DON'T SAY GOOD THINGS ABOUT ME.

Re:Indian? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948353)

And the third paragraph: "developing viSparsh under technical guidance of professor Rahul Mangharam of the University of Pennsylvania". So maybe Penn is more important than Indian? It's not clear from the article where they're located, I think it would be more relevant if they had said "Engineers in India" or "Engineers in Philadelphia" rather than their nationality.

Why stop there (1)

F69631 (2421974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38947893)

I like what you did there but surely you can't be satisfied with "Engineers modify Kinect to help the blind walk with confidence"? First of all, there is a lot of redundancy over there! In the context, it's obvious that people are "engineering" something so specifying "engineers" is redundant. We could substitute it with "People" but it's also obvious that people are doing the modification, so we arrive at "Kinect modified to help the blind walk with confidence".

Now that we're done with the redundancy, we still have a lot of problems left. First of all "walk with confidence"? That's accomplished by personal charisma or perhaps some drugs. Uninformative expression. Also "the Blind"? Surely that's too specific as exact same method should be applicable to any sightless thing, such as robots. Let's try "Modified Kinect - A limited substitute for sight?".

Obivously, we're just a few steps away from determining that headline is "Visual sensors can be used to substitute visual sensors", at which point we can completely eliminate the 100% redundant headline and go with a empty string.

Indian? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948127)

Why is this post about "Indian engineers", when they are just engineers?

Re:Indian? (4, Insightful)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948313)

That's a pretty long distance grab for the rascist card there. Is it really not interesting to you to know where people come from? We do not all belong to one homogenous mass of humans. We come from different cultures and different countries with different priorities and backgrounds. I think it is interesting to know what research is being done in different parts of the globe - especially when it is such a positive story as this.

Re:Indian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38956095)

Except that this is not being done in an IIT in India, or in any companies in Bangalore or Pune - it's being done in UPenn. The fact that members of the team happen to be Indian is just incidental to the story, and not really a reflection on Indian technical expertise.

Engineers? (3, Funny)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 2 years ago | (#38949177)

Why is this post about engineers, when they are just people?

Useful for finding objects, or finding gaps (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38948631)

There was an ultrasound torch developed 20-30 years ago, for helping blind people navigate. It was designed to help people find objects, and give different sounds for different objects (tree, hard wall etc.). It wasn't successful, but some people did use it. They spoke to the blind people who did use it, and found that they were using it to find gaps, not to find objects. The design might have been different if it had been optimised for finding gaps.

39 second mark (1)

andy1307 (656570) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948723)

At the 39 second mark, was that guy using a using a mac?

DMCA Violation! (0)

xmorg (718633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38948937)

predator drone their butts!

Kinect to help the blind 'see' in augmented realit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38949139)

Here is another related work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRudBPdntDo

Beats By Dre, Beats By Dre Pro, Monster Headphone (-1, Offtopic)

enderwy (2568651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38949141)

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Why do they call it the Xbox 360? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38949493)

Because even when you can't see, it, you'll turn 360 degrees and walk away. With confidence.

Confidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38949717)

I'd rather walk with safety. For confidence all I need is a little battery-powered box yelling "attaboy!"

Limited usability (1)

flugi (2426460) | more than 2 years ago | (#38950801)

Kinect is uneffective in daylight. They have to use a custom built kinect variant in order to get the infra camera to sense the projected dots in sunshine. The sun is quite a rival as source of infra light :) It also have hard time detecting shiny surfaces. The dangerous objects and situations make a fine list for the users :)

These are already in wide use (0)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 2 years ago | (#38953401)

There already is a device in common use which is very useful to "help alert the blind to obstacles that lie in their path." Better yet, it only costs about $40, has unlimited power supply, weighs under a pound, and is completely portable. Here is a photo. [nfb.org]

Re:These are already in wide use (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 2 years ago | (#38960909)

Horses and buggies were also better and more reliable than the earliest automobiles. I understand the point you're making. High tech isn't a solution for everything, but stuff like this is worth a shot at the R&D stage. You're never really sure that you can't improve a technology until you give it a try.

Re:These are already in wide use (1)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 2 years ago | (#38966579)

Even the most rudimentary automobiles displayed potential advantages over using horses -- longer range, higher payload capacity, higher sustained speeds, and so on. In all of the descriptions of this Kinect hack, I don't hear any description of the potential advantages over using a cane. The only advantage I can think of is it avoids the strong negative social stigma attached to using a cane. If the only problem with canes is social stigma, a social remedy would be much more appropriate and effective than a technological remedy.

Humor, attempt at (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38953739)

Let us know when they develop emacsSparsh.

Fine and dandy.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38955797)

...but how long before we can see real and commercially viable sex video games using Kinect motion sensing?

Real sex games: Think Rapeplay but with more depth. GTA's car sex does not count.

Let's not kid ourselves: sex sells. Most of the Internet traffic today is porn-related.

I think this reluctance and dragging of feet came from associating video games with kids, therefore the moralists are guilt-tripping game developers into not let kids see digital pee pee parts.

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