used in conjunction with Kinect for Windows SDK can be
used to build applications with C++, C#, or Visual Studio
Basic by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. The sensor unit
does not ship with any software and will only operate with
an application developed for Kinect for Windows; it is not
for gaming use. Microsoft is looking at a wide variety of
business and industrial applications for the new Kinect, but
robotics has remained in the forefront of uses.
What’s New About the Kinect
The differences between the Kinect for Xbox and the
new Kinect for Windows is that the K4W includes “a near
mode, skeletal tracking control, API (Application
Programming Interface) improvements, and improved USB
support across a range of Windows computers and
Windows-specific 10’ acoustic models. The sensor looks
identical to the original Kinect but has a shortened USB
cable to ensure reliability across a broad range of
computers, and includes a small dongle to improve
coexistence with other USB peripherals. The newer
hardware has different firmware, for one thing. The newer
firmware allows depth detection as near as 40 cm. The
older firmware only allowed depth detection from 80 cm.”
What they’re saying here is the original Kinect was
designed as a game controller to be used in front of a TV
by the person playing a game and was not required to be
any closer than 31” away from the sensor.
After trying to figure out the Kinect SDK for Windows
1.5, MS Visual Studio 2010, the APIs, and a few calls to
Parallax, I got the K4W working on Eddie. Parallax has been
very supportive of Eddie and will take the time to assist a
potential customer or purchaser with their questions.
The near mode allows the sensor to be placed at a
lower location on the robot, though I ended up replacing it
back up to the original position for gesture control from a
greater distance. The TurtleBot design team placed the
original Kinect 11” above the floor level and at the back of
the robot to allow floor detection ( 80+ cm away) to above
head height detection. I can see industrial applications with
the K4W near mode as it seems to be somewhat similar in
operation to the Leap sensor we talked about earlier.
Some people have remarked that they wished the
Kinect could be powered through the USB plug like the
similar Asus unit shown in Figure 12. I had a very difficult
time locating knowledgeable personnel at Asus in the US
office or in Taiwan who knew the technical aspects of their
product, though it appears to be as capable as either of the
two Microsoft units. As such, I was not able to actually test
and evaluate one of the Asus units.
The giant from Redmond, WA is the company we all
love to bash. With sales of 67 million Xbox 360s and 19
million Kinect sensors, Microsoft will continue to support
this unique sensor that many of us have added to our
FIGURE 13. PR- 2 with Kinect (courtesy of CNET.com).
Sensors For Mobile Robots -— Part 4
robots. With over $56 billion in sales attributed to these
two products, they are not about to drop their support. The
competent technical people that I contacted both at
Microsoft and Parallax were more than helpful in assisting
me. Despite the need for an external 12 volt power source
for both of the Kinect sensors and the extra cost for the
K4W to cover the non-commercial licensing aspects, these
sensors will find their way into many intelligent vision
applications beyond mobile robots.
Microsoft Research is actively working on other
technology such as the use of a laptop’s microphone and
speakers to develop a Kinect-like sonar system called
Sound Wave which will detect hand motions without
additional hardware. They have also demonstrated a
prototype of a Kinect-enabled shopping cart for Whole
Foods in conjunction with a Texas company, Chaotic Moon.
The cart will follow a customer through a store and scan
each product placed in the cart.
OpenKinect is a group dedicated to making use of the
Kinect hardware to enable the device to be used with
Windows, Linux, and Macs. The Computer Science and
Artificial Laboratory at MIT has added a $150 Kinect to a
$400,000 Willow Garage PR- 2 as shown in Figure 13.
Kinect, Siri, and other vision and speech recognition
products are expanding the capabilities of robots and
others applications around the world. SV
Tom Carroll can be reached at TWCarroll@aol.com.
SERVO 09.2012 79