While in the eye-doctor's waiting room the other day, waiting for my wife's exam to be over, I picked up a Popular Science magazine. I found an article on the surprising uses to which people are adapting the Microsoft Kinect game accessory. These clever folks are transforming this toy into a highly versatile user interface with amazing possibilities.
One that particularly intrigues me is the use of the Kinect to create a virtual keyboard that one can draw with pen and paper. The application uses the Kinect to image the paper, recognize the shapes on the paper as pushbuttons, and then determine when the user "presses" on the button. The machine then takes the appropriate action associated with that button.
I immediately imagined several potential uses for this capability. Say you have a machine in a high EMI environment that needs a user interface. You can place the machine in a Faraday cage with a transparent window that the Kinect looks through to see a printed keyboard outside the cage. Users can then type on that keyboard as though it were connected to the machine, without the need for any wires, which might cause an EMI leak, to penetrate the cage walls.
A similar application takes place in an underwater environment. Again, the machine is sealed inside a watertight chamber without the need for any cables or connectors to penetrate the walls, reducing the chances of a leak. Further, the keyboard, being just paint on a surface, would not need to be sealed, as there are no electronics to protect.
There are an amazing number of other applications using the Kinect as a user interface. One surgical system uses the Kinect to trigger a feedback force for surgeons performing robotic surgery, providing them with a sense of touch. Another uses the Kinect to create a real-time hologram of the object it is scanning, creating a 3D camera and projector. Popular Science keeps an ongoing list of such uses (which it calls "hacks") on its Website.
Is anyone in this community using or considering the Kinect as part of a user interface for their MCU design? If so, let us know!