Microsoft recently announced plans to release a software development kit (SDK) for the Kinect. This should allow academics and enthusiasts to find new ways to connect the motion-sensing Xbox hardware to other platforms, such as desktop and laptop computers, much more easily. In short, there should be many more Kinect hacks to come.
I’m still not sure how this would directly apply to classroom teaching, although it stands to reason that these applications could someday replace physical interactive whiteboards in the same way that Kinect was originally designed to replace physical videogame controllers for the Xbox.
For more, see my previous post on Kinect Hacks and below for some new examples of how Kinect is being used in new and exciting ways.
Control Windows 7
The touchless multitouch is really nice. Mice are so 2008.
3D Tetris with Face Tracking
As the user moves his head, the perspective on the screen changes to match so that the 3D perspective is constantly updated.
A wooden stick becomes a lightsaber in real time. This would save hours of frame-by-frame editing.
After Kinect scans your body, use your scroll wheel to expand or contract the surface.
Use Kinect attached to a bunch of dimmers to control Christmas lights for a very nice effect.
The 3D capability of connect makes it perfect for a robot that navigates three-dimensional space.
I never really thought much about Microsoft’s Kinect until I saw what hackers were doing with it. A story in the New York Times outlines how a designer and senior editor at Make magazine posted a $3000 bounty for the first person to post an open-source hack of the Kinect interface. Huzzah! In fact, I’m still not that impressed with it — 3D drawings are cool, but will they help me teach English? — but I’m thrilled that hackers big and small are poking around under the hood.
Interestingly, Johnny Chung Lee, who became famous for his TED talk where he described hacking a Wiimote to act like an interactive whiteboard, is involved in the development of Kinect. Microsoft were so impressed with his skills on the Wii-based IWB and other projects they hired him. He is reportedly very happy to see hackers taking on Kinect in the way he took on Wii a couple of years ago. If a hacker can squeeze an interactive whiteboard out of a $40 Wiimote, what will come out of the $150 Kinect system?
Will this technology help us teach ESL and EFL? It’s not easy to see how, at least not immediately. But prepare for a giant step forward in how we interface with computers in the next few years. Interactive whiteboards are just the beginning. You can always show your students this video and ask them to predict the future (in English).