What science fiction fan doesn’t love the idea of telekinesis? We never tire of the illusion, but there’s nothing illusory about Microsoft tech evangelist Mike Taulty’s ability to move a ball without touching it, using only simple hand gestures.
While Taulty calls his app “hacking for fun,” we see its potential in the real world. Imagine, for instance, how much more engaged a person could be with a digital display in a shopping center or public space if they could manipulate products or objects themselves. Imagine this simple application applied to a museum installation, an advertising display in a retail store, or a gaming arcade. We may not be able to control objects with our minds, but Kinect for Windows gives us the next best thing.
The Kinect for Windows Team
Earlier this month, we traveled north for a developer hackathon at the Burnaby campus of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), located in the heart of the Vancouver metropolitan area. The event, which was hosted by BCIT and co-sponsored by our team along with Occipital (makers of the Structure Sensor), drew nearly 100 developers, all eager to spend their weekend hacking with us. We were astonished by their creativity and energy—and their ability to cram so much hardware on each table!
Attendees hunched over keyboards and displays, hard at work on their projects.
Team Bubble Fighter won the top prize ($250, five Kinect for Windows v2 sensors and carrying bags, and a Structure Sensor) for their game Bubble Fighter. The game, reminiscent of Street Fighter, allows two people to play against one another over a network connection. Game play includes special moves triggered by gestures, including jumping to make your avatar leap over projectiles.
Players really had to jump to avoid projectiles in Bubble Fighter.
Team NAE took second place ($100, five Kinect for Windows v2 sensors and carrying bags, and a Structure Sensor) for their Public Speech Trainer, which helps users improve their public speaking, including training to avoid bad posture (think crossed arms) and distracting gestures. The app also provides built-in video recording, enabling users to review of all their prior training sessions.
The Eh-Team grabbed third place (five Kinect for Windows v2 sensors and carrying bags) for The Fitness Clinic, an app that provides real-time feedback on a user’s form during popular gym workouts.
We loved the great turnout, even if it meant that the hackers had just enough room on the table for all their gear.
Other projects presented
Team WelCam demonstrated their fall detection app.
Thanks our gracious hosts at BCIT, to all the attendees who came to hack and share ideas, and to our co-sponsor Occipital. I hope to see everyone again at a future event.
Ben Lower, Developer Community Manager, Kinect for Windows
____________________*Denotes projects awarded an Honorable Mention by the judges
Someday, people might reminisce about the days when ATMs were the state of the art in offsite banking. That day might come sooner than expected, thanks in part to Kinect for Windows technology. Diebold, Incorporated, a worldwide leader in integrated service solutions, has unveiled a prototype of a standalone banking platform that promises to make self-service banking more convenient, intuitive, and secure, for both the customer and the financial institution. Called the Responsive Banking Concept, the prototype is equipped with touch screens and sensing devices that simplify and protect offsite banking transactions. Kinect for Windows is one of the key underlying technologies, providing motion and voice sensing to help recognize customers and provide personalized service for even complex transactions. The Responsive Banking Concept prototype made its debut on November 2 at the 2014 Money 20/20 conference, a global event for financial service industries. Designed to bring secure, personalized financial services to places where customers work and play, the full-scale Responsive Banking Concept could be implemented in airports, shopping malls, and other high-traffic areas, while smaller modular versions could be placed in retail shops. So someday soon, a Kinect-enabled installation might be your new personal banker.
The Kinect for Windows Team
Today, we're extremely excited to announce some major news about Kinect:
You can find more details about these developments in Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman's post on the Official Microsoft Blog. As Alex says, "these updates are all part of our desire to make Kinect accessible and easy to use for every developer."
We recently traveled to the Netherlands’ capital for our latest developer hackathon. The venue, Pakhuis de Zwijger, a former refrigerated warehouse located on one of Amsterdam’s many canals, made for a very unique setting. Developers from all over Europe came for the 28-hour event, which was hosted by Dare to Difr. There were some very innovative projects, and we couldn’t have been happier with the energy of the attendees and the quality of their work.
The participants’ energy and creativity resulted in innovative projects during the Kinect for Windows hackathon in Amsterdam (September 5–6, 2014).
Team Hoog+Diep took the top prize (€1000 and one Windows v2 sensor and carrying bag per team member) for their app My First Little Toy Story 3D, which allows users to capture playful adventures with favorite toys and share them as videos with friends. The app tracks the movement of dinosaurs and helicopters while the user plays with them, then it “magically” makes the user disappear from the video before sharing it.
Team Hoog+Diep took first place for their augmented play app, My First Little Toy Story 3D.
Team AK earned second place (€500 and one Windows v2 sensor and carrying bag per team member) for Clara, an app that provides real-time analytics for a retail store, showing how many shoppers came through and providing insights on customer behavior and product popularity.
Team motognosis won third place (one Windows v2 sensor and carrying bag per team member) for their work on In exTremory, a “catch-the-shape” game for tremor analysis in clinical, rehabilitation, and home scenarios.
Other projects presented
Developers from all over Europe came for the 28-hour event.
Our next hackathon will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, November 8–9; registration opens in October, so keep an eye on our blog.
Thanks to all the attendees of the Amsterdam event and to our wonderful hosts at Dare to Difr. I look forward to watching the projects progress and to seeing you all again at a future event!
_________________*Denotes projects awarded an Honorable Mention by the judges
Today we released another update to the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 public preview. This release contains important product improvements that add up to a more stable and feature-rich product. This updated SDK lets you get serious about finalizing your applications for commercial deployment and, later this year, for availability in the Windows Store. Please install, enjoy, and let us know what you think.
A member of team Kwartzlab++ demonstrates his team's project VR Builder at the Kinect Hackathon in Kitchener, Ontario.
Last week, we headed north to Canada for the latest stop on our Kinect Hackathon world tour: a three-day event (August 8–10) in Kitchener, Ontario, where developers gathered to develop applications* using Kinect for Windows v2. One of the three cities that make up the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Kitchener has a booming tech community, fueled in part by the renowned computer science program at the University of Waterloo. So it was no surprise that the Kitchener attendees exhibited boundless energy and enormous creativity. Equally impressive was the hospitality of the people in Kitchener, especially Jennifer Janik and Rob Soosaar of Deep Realities, who were awesome hosts.
And the winners* are…
Team CleanSweep took first place.
Hard at work: members of team BearHunterNinja (left) and team Titan (right)
Other projects* presented
Thanks to everyone who came to the event in Kitchener. I hope to see you at another event in the future!
_____________________*The names of the hackathon projects and teams are determined solely by the participants and are not intended to be used commercially.
As Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) James Ashley points out in a recent blog, it’s a whole lot easier to create 3D movies with the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor and its preview software development kit (SDK 2.0 public preview). For starters, the v2 sensor captures up to three times more depth information than the original sensor did. That means you have far more depth data from which to construct your 3D images.
The next big improvement is in the ability to map color to the 3D image. The original Kinect sensor used an SD camera for color capture, and the resulting low-resolution images made it difficult to match the color data to the depth data. (RGB+D, a tool created by James George, Jonathan Porter, and Jonathan Minard, overcame this problem.) Knowing that the v2 sensor has a high-definition (1080p) video camera, Ashley reasoned that he could use the camera's color images directly, without a workaround tool. He also planned to map the color data to depth positions in real-time, a new capability built into the preview SDK.
Ashley shot this 3D video of his daughter Sophia by using Kinect for Windows v2 and a standard laptop.
Putting these features together, Ashley wrote an app that enabled him to create 3D videos on a standard laptop (dual core Intel i5, with 4 GB RAM and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400). While he has no plans at present to commercialize the application, he opines that it could be a great way to bring real-time 3D to video chats.
Ashley also speculates that since the underlying principle is a point cloud, stills of the volumetric recording could be converted into surface meshes that can be read by CAD software or even turned into models that could be printed on a 3D printer. He also thinks it could be useful for recording biometric information in a physician’s office, or for recording precise 3D information at a crime scene, for later review.
Those who want to learn more from Ashley about developing cool stuff with the v2 sensor should note that his book, Beginning Kinect Programming with Kinect for Windows v2, is due to be published in October.
Today, we are releasing an updated version of the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 public preview. This new SDK includes more than 200 improvements to the core SDK. Most notably, this release delivers the much sought after Kinect Fusion tool kit, which provides higher resolution camera tracking and performance. The updated SDK also includes substantial improvements in the tooling, specifically around Visual Gesture Builder (VGB) and Kinect Studio, and it offers 10 new samples (such as Discrete Gestures Basics, Face, and HD Face Basics) to get you coding faster. All of this adds up to a substantially more stable, more feature-rich product that lets you to get serious about finalizing your applications for commercial deployment and, later this year, for availability in the Windows Store.
The SDK is free and there will be no fees for runtime licenses of commercial applications developed with the SDK.
If you’ve already downloaded the public preview, please be sure to take advantage of today’s updates. And for developers who haven’t used Kinect for Windows v2 yet, there’s no better time to get started!
The Kinect for Windows Team
You’re the hero, blasting your way through a hostile battlefield, dispatching villains right and left. You feel the power as you control your well-armed, sculpted character through the game. But there is always the nagging feeling: that avatar doesn’t really look like me. Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a fully animated 3D game character that was a recognizable version of yourself? Well, with the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor and Fuse from Mixamo, you can do just that—no prior knowledge of 3D modelling required. In almost no time, you’ll have a fully armed, animated version of you, ready to insert into selected games and game engines.
The magic begins with the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor. You simply pose in front of the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor while its 1080p high-resolution camera captures six images of you: four of your body in static poses, and two of your face. With its enhanced depth sensing—up to three times greater than the original Kinect for Windows sensor—and its improved facial and body tracking, the v2 sensor captures your body in incredible, 3D detail. It tracks 25 joint positions and, with a mesh of 2,000 points, a wealth of facial detail.
You begin creating your personal 3D avatar by posing in front of the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor.
Once you have captured your image with the Kinect sensor, you simply upload it to Body Snap or a similar scanning software program, which will render it as a 3D model. This model is ready for download into an .obj file format designed for Fuse import requirements, which takes place in Body Hub, which, like Body Snap, is a product of Body Labs.
In Body Hub, your 3D model is prepared for download as an .obj file.
Next, you upload the 3D model to Fuse, where you can take advantage of more 280 “blendshapes” that you can push and pull, sculpting your 3D avatar as much as you want. You can also change your hairstyle and your coloring, as well as choose from a large assortment of clothing.
With your model imported to Fuse, you can customize its shape, hair style, and coloring.
The customization process also gives you an extensive array of wardrobe choices.
Once you’ve customized your newly scanned image, you export it to Mixamo, where it gets automatically rigged and animated. The process is so simple that it seems almost unreal. Rigging prepares your static 3D model for animation by inserting a 3D skeleton and binding it to the skin of your avatar. Normally, you would need to be a highly skilled technical director to accomplish this, but with Maximo, any gamer can rig a character. Now you’re ready to save and export your animated self into Garry’s Mod and Team Fortress 2—which are just the first two games that have community-made workflows for Fuse-created characters. Support for exporting directly from Fuse to other popular "modding" games is on the Fuse development roadmap.
On the left is a customized 3D avatar created from the scans of the gamer on the right.
The beauty of this system is not only its simplicity, but also its speed and relatively low cost. Within just minutes, you can create a fully rigged and animated 3D character. The Kinect for Windows v2 sensor costs just US$199 in the Microsoft Store, and Body Snap from Body Labs is free to download. Fuse can be purchased through Steam for $99, and includes two free auto-rigs per week.
In Mixamo, your avatar really comes to life, as auto-rigging makes it fully animated.
The speed and low cost of this system make it appealing to professional game developers and designers, too, especially since workflows exist for Unity, UDK, Unreal Engine, Source Engine, and Source Filmmaker.
Rigged and ready for action, your personal 3D avatar can be added to games and game engines, as in this shot from a game being developed with Unity.
The folks at Mixamo are committed to making character creation as easy and accessible as possible. “Mixamo’s mission is to make 3D content creation accessible for everyone, and this is another step in that direction,” says Stefano Corazza, CEO of Mixamo. “Kinect for Windows v2 and Fuse make it easier than ever for gamers and game developers to put their likeness into a game. In minutes, the 3D version of you can be running around in a 3D scene.”
And here's the payoff—the gamer plays the 3D avatar of himself. Now that’s putting yourself in the action!
The expertise and equipment required for 3D modeling have long thwarted players and developers who want to add more characters to games, but Kinect for Windows v2 plus Fuse is poised to break down this barrier. Soon, you can thrill to an animated version of you fulfilling your gaming desires, be it holding off alien hordes or building a virtual community. It’s just one more example of how Kinect for Windows technology and partnerships are enhancing entertainment and creativity.
Kinect for Windows Team