No really - Kinect flies - this isn' a value judgement but one of the most impressive uses of Microsoft's 3D sensor since its open source drivers have been available.
Following the "hacking" of the Kinect so that it can be connected to a PC and used as a general purpose 3D input device there has been a flood of inventive and ingenious applications - including the obvious demos of "Minority Report" style user interfaces. These applications are impressive but to a certain extent fairly obvious uses of the depth sensing abilities of the device. However one video seems to standout as being ambitious for so many reasons.
The STARMAC project is all about building autonomous vehicles but in this particular case it just looks like a good excuse for playing with an impressive quadrotor - then someone have the slightly crazy idea of bolting a Kinect on top of the flying platform. Some coding complete and we have the strangest looking autonomous flying thing you would wish for. Most of us would have concluded that the Kinect was too heavy to fly but apparently not. And what is more the software seems to do its job reasonably well and in real time. The Kinect is augmented by a 1,6GHz Atom processor running Ubuntu. This does all the complex image processing and in particular extracts the plane of the floor and uses this to tell the quadrotor how high it is. There is a backup motion/position sensor on board in case the Kinect fails, but this isn't being used in the video.
The idea of using the Kinect as a sensor for a wheeled robot is fairly obvious and there are examples for you to look at but a flying Kinect is quite another thing.
We are still looking forward to the time when robots will take over all the dangerous, unpleasant and boring jobs. But in a time of high unemployment some feel threatened by the prospect. Should we be [ ... ]