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Plugged In

Fans find creative uses for Kinect

Plugged In

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The Kinect

For some, Kinect is just a neat new way to play games.

For others, it's a challenge.

Packing a high-tech collection of cameras and sensors and attached to a tantalizingly universal USB plug, it was only a matter of time before imaginative hackers figured out how to talk to its hardware and unleash its full potential.

We didn't expect it to be quite so quick, however. The first efforts at homebrewed Kinect-using systems came within days of its November release; a month later, the web is packed with a bewildering variety of insane tech-demos for Kinect applications we're pretty sure Microsoft never even dreamt of. Here's some of the most imaginative.

[Related: Kinect sued over mixed martial arts fighter]

Minority Report

Tom Cruise sci-fi hit Minority Report featured a crime-predicting
computer with an awesome virtual reality interface. Here, an intrepid
Kinect hacker makes science fiction into science fact, browsing through a
stack of photographs with a flick of the wrist. Let us know when you
can forecast murders, OK?

Be the Predator

"The just came alive." Here's your chance to live out your Predator fantasies, courtesy of the Kinect's two integral cameras. This optical camouflage effect is straight out of our 1980s nightmares.

Kinect quadrotor

But while Kinect's Predator camouflage is strictly a special effect, this guy's for real. Hailing from the Hybrid Systems Lab at UC Berkley, it's an autonomous "quad-rotor" -- or four-rotored helicopter -- that uses the Kinect sensor to avoid obstacles. Like, say, someone swinging a big stick at it.

Be a Jedi

Fschoom! Wrapang! Ftoosh! No Star Wars fan can claim, hand on heart, to never have waved around an imaginary lightsaber. This guy takes it to the extreme, using Kinect and a PC to overlay a lightsaber glow on a wooden stick -- and topping off the effect with those familiar sounds. Eat your heart out, Star Wars Kid.

Engage your autistic kid

This isn't precisely a "hack," but we're pretty sure it wasn't part of Microsoft's design brief for the Kinect. editor John Yan wasn't too impressed with his new Kinect's games -- but for his four-year-old son, who suffers from autism and is frustrated with traditional gaming controllers, it was a different matter. As Yan put it, "The joy in his eyes as he was able to complete the tasks and move around in the menus is something I'll never forget."

Flying Free

Capture 3D video

Movie theaters are packed with hit 3D movies, but at the moment there's no affordable way to record 3D at home. Or there wasn't until Kinect came along. This hacker uses two Kinect sensors and a custom software rig to produce 3D video.

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