MIT Kinect Hacks - Making Videoconferences useful

Posted on Tuesday, April 5th 2011 at 8:26 p.m.

One of the best features of the XBox Kinect has been its hackable platform.  Kinect’s tools have been used in a variety of applications that are just beginning to scratch the surface of what is possible when devices can be sensitive to changes in their environment.

Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have hacked Kinect to provide some tools to make videoconferencing more useful:

  • The Kinect will focus on whoever in the room is talking and put others in the room out of focus
  • A timer appears above the speaker’s head displaying their total talking time (what a boon this would be in meetings!)
  • A “hold screen” can be created that provides a static image while people on conference do tasks they don’t want to share with other participants.
  • Similarly, a “privacy area” can be created out of a portion of the screen that will not brodcast to other participants.
  • Finally virtual objects can be created in the conference and manipulated by participants.  For example, a virtual group of buildings can be moved around.

Videoconferencing has always seemed like an appealing tool but has never taken off.  Perhaps the discoveries by the Media Lab team will help provide a case for the effectiveness of videoconferencing as a business tool.

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