Connecting with Kinect via Kinect Fun Labs

Connecting with Kinect via Kinect Fun Labs

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 30th Mar 2012

Kinect Fun Labs

It must be noted however that The Kinect Fun Labs suite was not created to simply provide the current adopters of this new tech -- Xbox 360 games who have already purchased a Kinect -- but equally target the gamers who have yet to do so, largely through showcasing the app and its add-ins through demo videos and presentations to the news media -- like the opening presentation at E3. If you take a moment to watch the video embedded above you will see what we mean.

Before we examine just what The Kinect Fun Labs has actually brought to the table, in the interest of promoting a better understanding of the Kinect motion-sensing controller, we thought it would be an idea to examine it in some detail.

A defining View of Kinect

When the Xbox 360 Kinect was announced and added to the hardware capabilities for Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console -- which was now to be re-branded as the Xbox 360 Entertainment System -- it added a dimension to the system and the games that are played on it that went well beyond what the competition had so far managed to field -- a controller-free gaming experience in which the gamers body itself became the game controller.

Using the marketing phrase "All You Need is You" as the focus for the new device, Microsoft and its Xbox Gaming Division embraced the concept of controller-free gaming in order to own it within the circle of game system makers and promoters of gaming through the Kinect game controlling system.

We place emphasis upon the word "system" because the Kinect is not simply another controller device like the Wii 'Mote, or Sony's Move, both of which still require the gamer to hold a physical controller in their hand in order to use them. The Kinect instead makes use of a number of built-in capabilities, which are basically complimentary devices that, when taken together make up the Kinect Sensor, which combined with the special software added to the OS on the Xbox 360, collectively represents the Kinect Controller System.

Physically the Kinect sensor is packaged in a horizontal bar with a small motorized base that contains a pivot and joint that is designed so that once the Kinect is properly positioned lengthwise either above or below the video display, the system can then adjust the sensor to optimally track the human targets that it has acquired in order to monitor their movements and translate them into controller actions.

The package features an RGB camera set, a motion-tracking depth sensor, and a microphone, which combine using the special software on the Xbox 360 in addition to the individual apps and games, allowing it to perform full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, gesture tracking, and voice recognition. It does all this by rapidly collecting and combining the tracking data that it constantly acquires from the environment, using its different components, combining all of that data in order to translate its full environmental monitoring capabilities in real time -- which is the neat trick that transforms it into a game controller.

The video components in the sensor package are a complex array with sensing capabilities that are similar to the hardware in the Rafael Python air-to-air missile (AAM) which is a "beyond-visual-range" missile that is capable of a sophisticated level of "lock-on after launch" (LOAL) processing that reliably allows the acquisition of enemy aircraft while avoiding targeting friendly aircraft. That targeting discrimination is accomplished by combining the inboard computer and its target profile data with real-time scanning of its environment using the combination of a sophisticated electro-optical imaging system, laser range measurement mechanism, and an infrared scanning system.

This allows the device to function in much the same way that the Kinect does, seeking out specific shapes and identifying them, and then homing in on them to deliver its payload, but where the missile system is performing these tasks in order to detect and identify a specific type of aircraft, the Kinect is only interested in detecting and profiling people.

In the case of the Kinect, controller-free gaming translates to full body play with the Kinect responding to how you move as its targeting system tracks you; once the system identifies each of the human players, when one of them kicks, the system records it as a kick and applies the motion to the operative parameters for the game that is being played. When one of the tracked bodies jumps, the system interprets the jump and applies it to the game -- memorizing controller buttons and button combinations (which is how you used to kick and jump) is no longer required -- gamers already know how to play the games, all that they need to do is to get off the couch and play!

That neatly explains the Kinect and its functional capabilities, so now let's take a look at The Kinect Fun Labs suite and how it demonstrates that functionality and the Kinect's capabilities in easy to understand and appreciate ways through game play and what we can only label Avatar Utilities.