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Kinect Hacked to Control Humanoid Robot: First Steps to Avatar

Kinect controlling robot

Another day, another Kinect hack, but this one really gives us a taste of a sci-fi-esque future: Kinect can now directly control the limbs of a humanoid robot. Yup—those Evangelion or Avatar dreams now seem a little more possible.

Taylor Veltrop is a software engineer and robot tinkerer, and his latest impressive feat is to link up a Microsoft Kinect via some custom software and a wireless link to his Kondo KHR-1HV kit robot. Essentially Taylor's code takes the data feed from Kinect's motion and body sensing systems, and works out what position his limbs are in before beaming that data to custom software he's installed in the robot's ROS operating system.

Check out the results below: (Taylor explains his project at the start, and the good stuff happens after 1:20)

Impressive stuff—even while it's only mapped onto the robot's arms for the moment. From the experiment we can see how quickly the mapping between Taylor's gestures and the robot's happen, that the range of motion of the 'bot is smaller than his, and that there could be a better way (using reverse kinematics) to control the robot where the position of the controller's limbs are calculated, rather than the angle of each joint. We can see some of its flaws in the fact that when the 'bot falls, Taylor has to remember to position his arms carefully to pick it up because Kinect is still tracking them.

But make no mistake, this is big stuff: It was crafted quickly by an enthusiast, using relatively inexpensive gear. If bigger robot companies get hold of the tech, it could dispose of the need for sophisticated image-recognition computing or strap-on motion sensing/tracking suits. And that could translate into simpler control over humanoid androids (which are already impressively realistic in some ways). Put a pair of goggles on the controlling human with a video feed from cameras in the robot's eyes, give the 'bot a loudspeaker and the power to walk, and you have a telepresence robot that really walks and talks like you. It's the future you've seen in countless sci-fi movies and shows, hinted at right here with a gaming peripheral.

Related: Kinect Hacked to Play World of Warcraft: Welcome to the Future of Gaming

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.