March 21, 2011 at 4:16 PM ET
Wearing a Kinect camera on your head might be uncomfortable, but it could be truly useful.
Two university students have hacked Microsoft's Kinect game controller and turned it into a device to help guide the blind.
Michael Zöllner and Stephan Huber from the University of Konstanz in Germany have created a system that uses a Kinect mounted atop a helmet along with a vibrating waist belt to help visually impaired people navigate through indoor locations.
It's all part of the NAVI project (Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired).
"We wanted to augment the visually impaired person's impression of a room or building by providing vibro-tactile feedback that reproduces the room's layout," the students explain on the university website.
With the Kinect mounted atop the user's head, the device's cameras measure depth information from the surrounding environment. That information is mapped to three pairs of vibration motors hot-glued into the left, center and right of a belt the user wears around the waist. The belt is connected to a laptop that is mounted onto a special backpack. Meanwhile, audio cues are spoken to the user via a Bluetooth headset.
Check out their video demonstration here:
Of course, it's not the sleekest set-up. Carrying a laptop on your back and Kinect on your head is certainly more than a little cumbersome at this point. Still, this hacked prototype clearly demonstrates just how useful something like this could be.
Kinect, it turns out, is proving to be far more than just a great tool for getting your "Dance Central" groove on. In-Game editor Todd Kenreck recently looked at the way in which Kinect could be used to make surgery safer in the future. Watch his video here:
(Thanks to Slashgear for the heads up.)
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