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Meet the Kinect: An Introduction to Programming Natural User Interfaces (Technology in Action)


In this chapter you’ll unbox a new Kinect—or if you have one already, you’ll disconnect it from your Xbox. Then you’ll install some software, plug the Kinect into a computer, and take a look at what all of the fuss is about with this unique device. You’ll learn what the different components of the Kinect are and be able to play with some simple controls to get a feel for how all the parts work together to make the magic happen.

The Kinect is marketed, packaged, and designed for use with Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console. The Xbox is a remarkable living room entertainment system, and if you haven’t tried Dance Central or Kinect Sports, I recommend that you do—playing those two games at the 24-hour Best Buy in Union Square here in NYC is what got me so excited about the Kinect in the first place. I dragged as many friends as I could down to the store so they could see this amazing technology in action.

That said, this book is the unofficial manual for how to take a Kinect and use it outside the living room—no Xbox required. Now, let’s make sure you have everything you need to unplug your Kinect from the game system—or purchase one by itself, plug it into your computer, and get tinkering.

Meet the Kinect introduces the exciting world of volumetric computing using the Microsoft Kinect. You'll learn to write scripts and software enabling the use of the Kinect as an input device. Interact directly with your computer through physical motion. The Kinect will read and track body movements, and is the bridge between the physical reality in which you exist and the virtual world created by your software.

Microsoft’s Kinect was released in fall 2010 to become the fastest-selling electronic device ever. For the first time, we have an inexpensive, three-dimensional sensor enabling direct interaction between human and computer, between the physical world and the virtual. The Kinect has been enthusiastically adopted by a growing culture of enthusiasts, who put it to work in creating technology-based art projects, three-dimensional scanners, adaptive devices for sight-impaired individuals, new ways of interacting with PCs, and even profitable business opportunities.

Meet the Kinect is the resource to get you started in mastering the Kinect and the exciting possibilities it brings. You’ll learn about the Kinect hardware and what it can do. You’ll install drivers and learn to download and run the growing amount of Kinect software freely available on the Internet. From there, you’ll move into writing code using some of the more popular frameworks and APIs, including the official Microsoft API and the language known as Processing that is popular in the art and creative world.

Along the way, you’ll learn principles and terminology. Volumetric computing didn’t begin with the Kinect. The field is decades old—if you’ve ever had an MRI, for example, you have benefitted from volumetric computing technology. Meet the Kinect goes beyond just the one device to impart the principles and terminology underlying the exciting field of volumetric computing that is now wide-open and accessible to the average person.

What you’ll learn

  • Install drivers to connect your Kinect to your PC, whether running Windows or Mac OSX
  • Download and run the growing body of software freely available via the Internet
  • Write scripts in the popular Processing language
  • Take advantage of Microsoft’s Kinect SDK for Windows
  • Choose a software development environment that suits your needs
  • Grasp principles and terminology underlying the Kinect technology

Who this book is for

Meet the Kinect is aimed at technology enthusiasts, including programmers, artists, and entrepreneurs who are fascinated by the possibilities arising from the direct, human-computer interaction enabled by the Microsoft Kinect. The book is for anyone who wants to take advantage of the growing body of software for the Kinect, and for those who wish to write their own programs and scripts involving the Kinect as an input device.

Table of Contents

  1. Getting Started
  2. Behind the Technology
  3. Applications in the Wild
  4. Scripting the Kinect
  5. Many Ways to Kinect
  6. Application Development with PrimeSense's NITE Framework
  7. Application Development with the Beckon Framework
  8. Application Development with Microsoft's Windows/XBOX Framework
  9. Volumetric Display Techniques
  10. Where to Go From Here?
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