Microsoft’s Kinect is a fascinating piece of technology. Makers have been using it for everything from 3D scanning to controlling skateboards! It seems that every day a new, remarkable hack shows up using this device. Interested in using the Kinect in your own projects? This new book, Making Things See by Greg Borenstein (available in the Maker Shed) walks you through the entire process. It contains everything from how the Kinect works to how you can build your own robotic arm that mimics your movements. To find out more about this in-depth book and what it means to makers, O’Reilly Publicist Mary Rotman caught up with the author for a quick interview.
After spending a decade as a musician, web programmer, and startup founder, what caused you change directions and focus on the Kinect?
I’ve been obsessed with movie visual effects for a long time and as soon as I saw the Kinect I couldn’t help but imagine all the ways it could be used to reproduce traditional effects techniques such as background subtraction and compositing, 3D model integration, camera tracking, etc. It felt like the beginning of a world where the amazing image-making tools of Hollywood blockbusters would become available to everyone. Also, I was blown away by the energy, positivity, and creativity of the open source community that was rapidly forming around the project.
How is the Kinect changing the future of making?
The Kinect makes it radically easier to detect the position and movement of people than ever before. This has had a huge impact on interactive design and art. Cool interaction techniques that used to be so difficult that only experts could implement them are now available to even casual coders. These techniques include detecting people’s presence to trigger graphics or sound, tracking their movements and gestures to give them control of digital objects or hardware, and providing, and bringing spaces to life by making them interactive.
Also, the Kinect heralds a future of 3D scanning for fabrication and media. Just like the invention of scanners and digital cameras the ability to capture a three dimensional image of an object promises to unleash new whole new forms of design and image making, from 3D printing to point cloud cinema.
Who is this book for?
My book is aimed at beginning creative coders. This group includes artists and designers looking to use more technology in their work as well as programmers looking to branch out into graphical and interactive work.
Making Things See uses Processing for all its examples. It assumes you’ve seen Processing (or something like it) before but that you’re far from an expert. I designed the book to proceed from beginning topics to more advanced techniques as it goes through the material about the Kinect, simultaneously taking you from beginning creative coding into intermediate and advanced topics.
A healthy curiosity about working in 3D and an excitement about getting up and moving around to control your computer with your body would also really help.
How do you think projects like these will change the future of the Make community?
On the grand scale I think the chief effect of the Kinect (and other related projects such as the Makerbot) will be to increase the importance of working in 3D for Makers.
Well, that’s it. It looks like I’m going to have to buy a Kinect!