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A Breakthrough in Human Gesture Recognition Print
September 2011

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Microsoft launched a toy in November 2010 amidst intense competitions from Nintendo and Sony.  This toy was Kinect and was an addition to XBOX.  Within 2 months, customers bought 8 million Kinects making it the fastest selling device in consumer electronics history.  We did not take note of it  because we do not play computer games.  We raised our eyebrows when the Microsoft research team based in Cambridge England won an award for the best innovation and it was reported by the Engineering and Technology magazine in July 2011.  Kinect was launched as a toy, but it is the first device capable of capturing human motions in 3D at as high as 30 frames per second and its price is set very low!  This amazing device is retailed in NZ for a couple of hundred dollars only.

Kinect has 2 eyes like  a  human to give the depth of view.  Given its machine look with human visions, we may think it is an ET (extra-terrestrial).  It does not walk or move and is just a stationery device capturing 3D motions within the range of 1 to 4 metres (these figures are estimates only).  The Cambridge team applied machine learning techniques to build a capability to analyse 3D images presumably by the CPU of the XBOX.   Pixels of the 3D images are classified into one of 31 body parts and the patterns are matched to another database of human body motions.  Displaying human movements on a LCD is easy, but understanding what each movement means is complex.  Kinect behaves like  a  human with 3D vision and the mental ability of understanding of what each motion means.  This is ground breaking.

According to the magazine, Microsoft has planned to launch a software development kit (SDK) to broaden the scope of applications of Kinect beyond gaming.  Surgeons are already using Kinect to instruct a computer to display a certain type of information during a surgery process.   This means Kinect has replaced one human assistant and eliminated a keyboard or mouse or console in the operation theatre.

Nieman Journalism Labs at Harvard has demonstrated the use of Kinect to get information displayed on the mirror in the bathroom.  We can brush our teeth and read the newspaper from the mirror at the same time if we want to. 

Compucon has connections with world leading technology companies and is arranging for a share of this new technology. 


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