WorldKit in action, detecting objects on the left. The projector and Kinect depth camera on the right (via Chris Harrison & WorldKit)
Despite the negative response to the XBOX ONE’s Kinect ever watching eye, the tech can really change how we interact with the world. An interface that might be so useful that people are willing to simply ignore big-brother. Case in point…
Is it hard for you to imagine using your coffee table to change the channel on your TV? It may sound a little far-fetched, but scientists have recently created a system that is capable of doing just that. Robert Xiao and Chris Harrison both from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have created this system and dubbed it WorldKit. Integrating cameras, projectors, and computers into their system, any surface is potentially capable of being used for controlling digital devices.
The system works by tracking user’s movements and creating a projection where specific gestures are made. In most examples that have been given so far, those gestures have been swipes of the hand where the desired projection should be located. While the Microsoft Kinect has been used to track these movements, they have also integrated a voice recognition software into their system. Therefore, when the user makes a swiping movement on a surface, they may also state what type of controller they are trying to access. For instance, swiping on the top of your coffee table and stating, “TV remote” will project the image of the TV controls on the coffee table in which you can then interact with to control the TV.
The WorldKit system relies on ceiling mounted hardware to map out the room and surfaces within it. Furthermore, the system will automatically detect and map out its surrounding environment, so no prior calibration or tuning is needed. If successful, this can bring us one giant step closer to a world of ubiquitous computing.
“People have talked about creating smart environments, where sensors, displays and computers are interwoven,” stated Harrison. “But usually, that doesn't amount to much besides mounting a camera on the ceiling. The room may be smart, but it has no outlet for that smartness. With WorldKit, we say forget touchscreens and go straight to projectors, which can make the room truly interactive.”
Xiao is scheduled to demonstrate the project at CHI 2013, the conference for human computer interaction taking place in Paris. “Depth sensors are getting better and projectors just keep getting smaller,” commented Xaio. “We envision an interactive 'light-bulb' – a miniaturized device that could be screwed into an ordinary light fixture and pointed or moved to wherever an interface is needed.” The team is hoping their system can possibly drive down the prices of projectors and may one day also lead to a similar system where people can interact with projections in free space.
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