Tag Archives: kinect

Flying Robots

Have you ever been amazed by a TED Talks video?  This is one of those.  Using principles from the insect world, these robots communicate with each other in ways that allow them to interact and work together.  These robots can map 3D spaces, build complex structures out of modular pieces, and even jump through hoops — literally.

This video doesn’t necessarily have a direct-to-classroom ESL application — though I’m sure it would get your students talking — but it is a pretty impressive demonstration of how far this technology has come.  With the work that is being done with Microsoft Kinect in the DIY community, I wonder how long before we are building these in our backyard.

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Wear Your IWB to Work

cyborgs

A wearable computer won’t make you a cyborg, but it will get you one step closer.  A new project out of Carnegie Melon University allows you to turn any surface into a touchscreen, including your body.  Read the article or watch the video below.

Essentially, the system combines a Microsoft Kinect and a pocket-sized projector for a relatively smooth multi-touch, multi-surface user experience.  The downside?  This is what you have to wear:

wearable computer

Is it worth it?  Probably not.  Yet.  Good luck wearing one of these through an airport without attracting attention.  It probably wouldn’t even be easy to have a natural interaction with another human being without them being slightly distracted.

For those attracted to having your playlist projected on your forearm (instead of on the screen you’re holding in the hand at the end of said forearm) I’d advise you to wait a few years for Moore’s Law to shrink this down to something that will fit into the brim of a baseball cap, which, come to think of it, might be even creepier.

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The First 150

New header image drawn with Processing.

I recently published by 150th blog post and WordPress dutifully informed me immediately after I pushed the button.  I thought it would also be a good time to take a look back at vast history (over two years!) of ESL Technology.com.

Top Posts:

Outside of “homepage” and “about me”, the most popular posts of all time are (page views in parentheses):

Interactive Whiteboard FAQ (Wii) (1866) This post summarized a lot of answers to questions I had when I first started working with the Wii-based interactive whiteboard and for a while was among the top links in Google searches for “Wii” and “interactive whiteboard” (IWB).  There has been lots of development in the DIY IWB in the last couple of years, but this post still has lots of good information.  The DIY / edupunk spirit is a common thread throughout this blog.

How do I know my IR LED works? (982) Again, a great insight for DIY IWB users.  The gist: Most cellphone cameras can view infrared.  Intrigued?  Read the post.

Hacking Kinect (756) This is obviously a much more recent post, as Micorsoft’s Kinect came along after the Wii.  As soon as it got cracked open, thanks to a bounty put on someone opening it up, YouTube got flooded with videos of people doing interesting things with it.  People are still interested judging by how often this post is viewed.

Mashable Interactive Whiteboard Activites (743) This post documented a treasure trove of activities for IWBs that are mashable, adaptable, and tweakable if you don’t mind pulling back the curtain and taking a look some basic HTML.  It’s always fun to have to learn and do a little problem solving before being rewarded with your own custom-made classroom-ready tech.

Other highlights:

These next four posts aren’t in the most-viewed, but maybe they should be.

Teaching with Google Images – This was a simple post about how Google Images can be used as a quick reference with English Language Learners (ELLs).  This generated more feedback than most posts, so it must have struck a chord.  I was glad to both highlight a specific technology / website and also give teachers a quick and simple tip they could use in the classroom.

Google Translate – Google does amazing things.  If translation improves as quickly as most other technologies, the profession of language teaching, and the motivation of our students, will look radically different in 20, or even 10 years.  Will students still want to learn another language when their Android phone can translate interactions in 50 languages on-the-fly?  I think so, but not for the reasons they do now.

Computer Games in ESL – Video and computer games have advanced so dramatically in the past decade, they have really become interactive texts.  They have taken their alongside television, music, books, and movies in popular entertainment.  In fact, my local newspaper reviews as many new video games as new movies.  Can we continue to ignore the influence of these games on our students?  I think not.

Are you ready for some football? – As I mentioned above, I am really interested in simulations, games and gaming, but this simulation (of a game) is decidedly analog.  In fact, I designed it for use with one six-sided die.  I’ve used it with several groups of students and it quickly gives them a good understanding of the strategy involved in American football.  Try it for yourself.

Finally

I’m changing up the look a bit.  I created the sketch at the top of this post in Processing, an easy to pick up, hard to put down programming language I’m currently learning.  I tweaked it a bit in Photoshop before making it the header for my image.  It was time for a change and time to make something myself.  Maybe I’ll change it again after another 150 posts.

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Kinect-Based IWB

infrared points of light projected from a Kinect

Ever since a $3000 bounty was placed on cracking open Microsoft’s fab new gaming hardware, the motion-sensing Kinect for Xbox, hackers and tinkerers have been putting the open-source drivers to lots of interesting uses on platforms that Microsoft never envisioned.  I’ve written about interesting Kinect hacks before (and before that,) and I’ve written about my experience with the Wii-based $50 Interactive Whiteboard (IWB,) but I haven’t seen a fully-developed Kinect-based Interactive Whiteboard.

Perhaps an Interactive Whiteboard is too narrow a description.  Many of the pieces are in place (see below) to interface with a computer using Kinect.  So, as with the Wii-based IWB, any application you can use on your computer can be controlled by this hardware.  If you connect your computer to a projector, you essentially have an Interactive Whiteboard.

Is the Kinect-based experience different from a Wii-based IWB or a Smartboard?  Almost certainly.  There would be no need to touch the screen at all, but rather to gesture in front of the Kinect to interact with the projection on the screen.  Would this be an improvement?  I’m not sure.  A touch-based IWB is more analogous to traditional whiteboard that uses markers and an eraser.  So, the touchless experience would be quite different.  I need to try it myself to really wrap my head around the opportunities that this motion-sensing interface offers.

I’m not sure if anyone here at Ohio State is working with Kinect as an interface for non-Xbox applications.  But I do know that the Digital Union has a Kinect which could probably be used to see if and how things work.  If anyone else is interested in trying to pull this together, drop me a line or leave a comment.

Multitouch with Kinect

Kinect on a Mac

Multitouch Kinect

Kinect Fingertip Detection

Kinect + PC + Mario = Fun

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Kinect Development

microsoft kinect hardware

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.

Kinect Lightsaber

A wooden stick becomes a lightsaber in real time.  This would save hours of  frame-by-frame editing.

Balloon Body

After Kinect scans your body, use your scroll wheel to expand or contract the surface.

Christmas Lights

Use Kinect attached to a bunch of dimmers to control Christmas lights for a very nice effect.

Flying Robot

The 3D capability of connect makes it perfect for a robot that navigates three-dimensional space.

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Open and Kinect

open kinect

A few days ago, I wrote about how the new Microsoft Kinect has been hacked so that you don’t need an Xbox to use it.  There are now lots of tinkerers and hackers working with this hardware to see what else might be possible.  Although it’s not as easy to see the immediate applications for Kinect in the language classroom as it was for the Wii-based interactive whiteboard, there are obvious parallels.  And this new gaming hardware is more advanced than the Wiimote, which may offer more possibilities.  I’ve posted some examples of some interesting Kinect-based projects below.

How does it work?

Infrared beams, and lots of them.  Here’s how it looks with an infrared / nightvision camera.

Multitouch IWB

Because Kinect can “see” surfaces in 3D, it can be used to create a multitouch interactive whiteboard on multiple surfaces.

Control your browser

Forget your mouse.  Kinect can see the gestures you make in three-dimensional space.  Use gestures to control your browser and more.

Teach it

Teach it to recognize objects.  Obviously, there is a lot more software in use here, but Kinect provides the interface.

Digital puppets

Who wouldn’t want one of these?

Visual camouflage

In 1987, the movie Predator cost $18M.  A significant portion of what was left over after paying Arnold Schwarzenegger was likely spent on the cool alien light-bending camouflage effects.  Just over 20 years later, you can make the same effects on your computer using the $250 Kinect hardware.

3D video

At first glance, this looks like really poor quality video, but stick with it.  Notice the Kinect camera does not move, but with the flick of a mouse, the point of view can be changed as Kinect extrapolates where everything is in the space based on what it can see from where it is.  The black shadows are where Kinect can’t see.

Using 2 Kinects, most of the shadows are filled in.  The effect is like a translation of the real world into a low resolution Second Life-like environment.

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Hacking Kinect

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).

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