Jun 13, 2015 | By Simon

Of all of the mainstream products that have made a dent in the Maker and digital fabrication world, it’s hard to disagree that the Microsoft Kinect is among one of the top contenders for the title.  

The motion sensing input devices by Microsoft, which are designed to be used with Xbox 360 and Xbox One video game consoles as well as Windows PCs, have been hacked and rebuilt for a variety of real-time 3D scanning applications since their initial release.  

While originally designed to enable users to control and interact with their video game console or computer without the need for a game controller through the use of natural gestures or voice commands, it has since turned into a multidimensional starting point for hackers and makers who are looking to create next-generation user experiences and product designs.  

To date, over 25 million units of the Kinect have been shipped and Microsoft currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the "fastest selling consumer electronics device" after having sold 8 million units alone in the first two months on the market.  With this many Kinect devices out in the world, it’s no surprise that many of them have fallen into the hands of those who are looking to create their own products and experiences.  Among others who have been busy developing various uses and applications for the Kinect include a group of creative thinkers based out of the Bristol Interaction and Graphics (BIG) collaboration hub in  Bristol, England.   

The hub, which is defined by its members as being “united by a common interest in creative interdisciplinarity”, acts as a collaborative organization between social scientists, artists, scientists and engineers to combine efficient and aesthetic design.  Between all the members are years of expertise in research areas spanning human-computer interaction, visual and tactile perception, imaging, visualisation and computer-supported collaboration.    

More recently, the group developed a mobile, battery-powered, wireless depth camera that is both based on (and compatible with) the Microsoft Kinect.  In essence, the wireless device brings everything that’s great and powerful about the Microsoft Kinect and liberates it from the confines of a stationary setup.  

To build it, the design engineers utilized the front camera circuit board of the Kinect and installed a second bespoke board of the same size in place of the standard (and larger) Kinect board, which uses a USB connection to plug into a Gumstix-embedded Linux computer that is running an open source driver and streams the content in real-time via an 802.11n wireless dongle.  According to the group, the design would work equally well with a Raspberry Pi or other SBCs with a bit of hacking.

As it stands with their self-described “clunky setup”, the team notes that the device is capable of gathering roughly 24 frames per second and about a half-hour of continuous operation - however they state that it’s possible to tweak the design and make improvements to significantly improve these numbers.  

Aside from building this incredible hack, what makes it even more impressive is that the team has made all of the necessary information for building your own publicly available:  

“In order to promote the use of this device across a wide range of domains, we are making the circuit diagrams and PCB layouts for the additional circuitry available.”

To find out more about the build - including all of the necessary schematics and files needed to build your own - head over to Bristol Interaction and Graphics.  




Posted in 3D Scanning

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