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Aug 04

Microsoft Kinect For Windows Version 2 Review

Posted in Reviews on by Jeff Bronson

This summer, Microsoft Kinect for Windows 2 will be released. X Studios was honored to be selected by Microsoft to “take it for a spin” as part of the beta testing group. For those reading this that are not familiar with the tech, Kinect allows users to interact naturally with computers by simply gesturing and speaking. Kinect is widely used in Xbox gaming, however, many may not realize that there’s infinite possibilities to create professional applications for themed attractions, retail, and experiential marketing .

For instance, here at X Studios we recently developed an attraction that reads guests body gestures for one of the largest theme parks in the world, a human body exhibit for Smithsonian, and many more projects that are currently in development.

The Kinect 2 for Windows is still relatively new, and we are just now starting to see projects developed with it. Here are a few of the new features and improvements at a glance:

A few key features:

  • Full skeletons tracked: 6   (V1 tracked only 2)
  • Camera Depth: 512 x 424 (V1 was only 320 x 240)
  • Skeleton Joints Defined: 26 joints (V1 tracked only 20)

The Good
Since the release of Kinect version 1, several key features have improved, for the better.

  • The color camera is now HD Quality.
  • The depth sensing operates at a much higher resolution, using a new technology called Time of Flight. The original Kinect measured distance based off an infrared grid. This new modulated IR beam sensor measures how long it takes for photons to travel to the target. This yields a much higher accuracy, even in a dark room with active IR.
  • Increased vertical and horizontal fields of view makes a tilt motor unnecessary, and less moving parts to fail. As a result, increased flexibility in placement of the Kinect is possible.
  • Increased joints allow for more natural tracking, especially in the arms and shoulders. Closed fists and open hands are detected easier, which is the result of this more natural interface. Shoulder joints raising and lowering are more easily tracked as well.
  • Yes, Kinect version 2 can even measure your heartbeat and detect your balance!
Current Limitations

Size - As electronics get smaller, Kinect for some reason has gotten bigger. This is a negative as many of our clients prefer the sensor to be hidden from the guest experience. The larger size makes this even more challenging to pull out, however the trade off is an increased view angle, as elaborated below.

View Angle - The vertical FOV is limiting, although it has improved. Users have to stand at least a few feet away in order to get a reading, which is fine for tracking from the waist up. However, full body tracking requires at least 5-6 feet from the sensor which can be challenging when real estate is a concern. 

Merge - We’d like to see the ability to merge multiple connect devices, and have them all track the same skeleton, to create an extremely large field of view.  Unfortunately, there is no ‘out of the box’ way to do this currently, with this pre-release model.  It would be great to see a high-end version that could potentially be smaller, with enhanced features.

Practical Uses

  • Many themed attraction possibilities.
  • Virtual puppets (ex. animals) that mimic body movements.
  • Simulated X-ray machines.
  • Rehab applications for medical facilities, where you can gamify body movements and exercises.
  • Children’s museum engagements, requiring kids to interact with their body instead of buttons or a touch screen.
  • Retail environments for advanced digital signage that detects your location as it relates to the screen.  
  • Exhibit games.
  • Real time 3D body scanning applications.
  • Augmented reality applications.
  • Proximity-based retail advertising.
  • Creating a more immersive experience, through natural UI, gesture based and voice recognition controls.

Overall, we are very pleased with this new Kinect version and can’t wait to develop additional experiential marketing projects for our clients!

X Studios is a Orlando Digital Agency specializing in custom web application development.