Having already been unlocked by software enthusiasts, the Kinect camera is now finding even more uses outside of gaming. Tech blog Singularity Hub reports that Philipp Robbel, a student at MIT's Personal Robotics Group, managed to connect Microsoft's motion-sensing camera to an iRobot Create, a small robot used by educational systems. The circular device resembles its more familiar cousin, the Roomba robotic vacuum found in many homes.
Using open-source simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) code on a wirelessly connected PC, Robbel managed to connect the Kinect's 3D camera to have it make a 3D map of the surrounding area. He also managed to get the robot to recognize the human form and even follow command gestures. In a demonstration video (see below), he directs the iRobot with a wave of his arm.
Robbel's Ph.D. dissertation at MIT is to create a team of robots, which could find missing or trapped people after a disaster. Though the iRobot would not be ideal for uneven terrain, he believes the 3D mapping could provide a map for a group of small quadrotor flying robots to investigate, and that the gesture recognition would allow one trapped person to direct the robot to another.