The tech is coming from the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, where a team has built a toolkit, dubbed the Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit, which lets them quickly harness Kinect's various image processing and motion-sensing powers to whatever bits of code they desire. This middleware, with some tweaks, lets FAAST quickly facilitate "integration of full-body control with games and VR applications," via a clever processing server that streams the user's skeleton pattern, including body position and gestures which can be mapped onto keyboard controls.
The code is free for non-commercial use, because the Institute has big plans for it--including simple, medically inspired games for rehabilitation of motor-skills after a stroke, and even for reducing childhood obesity through "healthy gaming" (though, given the wild flailing Kinect-playing requires, the health of coffee tables and trinkets around the world might be in danger).
But one demonstration hack made with FAAST is particularly intriguing: It's been tweaked to run World of Warcraft. Check it out:
It's obviously experimental, and we're a little unsure about that awkward lean-to-move maneuver--it looks like it would blast your back after an extended gaming session, and Kinect should be capable of tracking players jogging on the spot to move instead. The gestures they're using will only get more complex--in the future it looks like there'll be clever ways to battle or cast spells.
This enhanced use of Kinect on one of the world's most popular online computer games demonstrates exactly how powerful the future of gaming is going to be. WoW is already a highly complex game to play, requiring mastery of multiple input systems at the same time--turning it into a simpler body-gesture controlled game will improve how immersive an experience it is, way beyond what Kinect can do in games on the Xbox platform right now. Will Blizzard, WoW's maker, embrace this idea when Kinect gets its "official" PC drivers, as Microsoft has hinted it will? Hard to say, but there's one big take-away from this hack: With, or without WoW, or even Kinect (as motion-gesture systems may soon come to tablets and smartphones) gaming is going to get even more innovative and exciting next year and beyond.
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