August 31, 2012

Use Kinect@Home To Scan Your Home, Help Robot-Kind

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

A group of Swedish researchers are hoping to tap into the installed base of over 18 million Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect owners to create 3D scans of objects, their homes, and even themselves. Kinect@Home is a group of three academics who want to take large volumes of 3D modeling to analyze and create algorithms to improve robotics and computer vision software. To date, the project has 154 Kinect models.

The group of three researchers behind Kinect@Home are Alper Ayedmir, Rasmus Goransson and Professor Patric Jensfelt. Aydemir and Jensfelt started Kinect@Home as a research project at CAS Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.

Software is available to anyone as a download. The group developed a program that uses a combination of Python and C++. An earlier version used the Microsoft SDK, however compatibility was dropped due to the constrains of a three-person team. Software is compatible with Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. It also works for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer 7+ for both Kinect for Windows and Xbox. The team offers instructions on downloading and scanning 3D images.

Interested parties can download the drivers and a plugin from Kinect@Home; run the plugin to scan images while moving the Kinect slowly around to capture more data; and upload images to be rendered in the cloud.

Users can choose to make images private - where only the Kinect@Home group will see them - or allow 3D images to be published on the Kinect@Home website. Images are posted anonymously.

Kinect@Home plans to use the data and images to help improve robotics and computer vision. The data will be used to provide better programming of robots. For example, a robot might be programmed to operate a washing machine. Who wouldn't want a robot to do their laundry, right? But without a large sampling of data on washing machines, a robot might be limited to operating a very specific model.

To get enough data, Kinect@Home is asking people to scan every nook and cranny. They're looking for people to scan their living room, bedroom, kitchen, den and any other rooms in the house. The group is also looking for scans of objects and also of people.

While the main purpose of the 3D scans is to give the group at Kinect@Home data to work with, users can play with their 3D images. The images produced from a Kinect camera are somewhat limited by the camera's positioning. If a user doesn't move the Kinect device while capturing an image, it will render a somewhat flat 3D image, where the modeling stops is where the camera didn't capture an image. An image of one of the developers, Rasmus Goransson, shows the subject in 3D, but stops abruptly at his ears where the curvature of his body hid from the camera.

The Kinect camera, a peripheral of the Microsoft Xbox 360 video game console, is an ideal tool for Kinect@Home to use for the project due to the installed base. As of January of this year, Microsoft has sold more than 66 million units of the console. Microsoft has sold more than 18 million Kinect peripherals worldwide. While it was made for the Xbox 360, the Kinect also works with Windows machines.