Microsoft's Kinect Sensor Utilized For South Korean Border Monitoring
February 4, 2014

Microsoft’s Kinect Sensor Utilized For South Korean Border Monitoring

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

Microsoft’s innovative Kinect proved to be a game changer for the Xbox 360 video game system when it was released in November of 2010. It provided interaction with the Xbox system via motion and voice control for video games, and last fall was used to allow blind people to learn yoga.

Now it seems that the controller system could help protect the border of South Korea.

The motion-control technology behind Kinect is reportedly being used to monitor the demilitarized zone (DMZ) – the de facto boundary between the two Koreas, which remains the world’s most heavily armed border. This news was first reported by South Korean news agency Hankooki and soon picked up by the western press on Monday, after being translated by gaming site Kotaku.

The Kinect technology was deployed along the South Korean side of the border last August, but it was only made public in recent weeks. While Kinect can take voice commands it is the motion control aspect that is now being utilized and this system works to identify objects attempting to cross the DMZ.

It can reportedly differentiate between animals and humans, and if it determines that the object being monitored is human it can alert a nearby outpost.

This system was developed by self-taught South Korean programmer Jae Kwan Ko, who is now a Kinect convergence application programmer at Microsoft.

“I’ve never even thought of a game system performing national defense tasks,” Ko was quoted as saying, as reported by Kotaku.

While other details haven’t been released, likely for security reasons, it isn’t clear if the monitoring is even running on Xbox systems. If it is, it could be running on the Xbox 360’s version rather than the Xbox One, which features a built-in camera. The Xbox One has not been released in South Korea yet.

In the future, Ko reportedly hopes that the sensor could be used to detect heart rates and heat, which Kotaku noted could mean that South Korea hopes to get a hardware upgrade for the Xbox One.

South Korea’s military is not the only non-game developer looking to take advantage of the Kinect’s technology.

In 2012 Microsoft worked with NASA engineers to create a Mars Rover Landing game, which was released as a free download and gave players the experience of controlling the rover. In the game players used body movements, read by the Kinect, to control and land the rover on Mars.

More recently engineering interns at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center created a robotic arm kit that utilized an Xbox Kinect sensor, which allowed the arm to be used to pick up an egg. In December this research seemed to go even farther as the Human Interfaces division at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California showed how the Kinect and Oculus Rift technology could further be used to control a robotic Arm.

“Using the new Xbox One Kinect sensor, we are able to manipulate the JACO robot arm in real time. By combining position tracking from the Kinect and rotational tracking with the Oculus, we provide a first-person view for the operator,” NASA said, as reported by GameSpot.

From picking up objects to monitoring dangerous borders, the Kinect seems to be well-suited for a number of tasks.