HoloHands: Kinect-Controlled Lasers

kinect straight view

HoloHands: Kinect-controlled Lasers!

Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect was the first to eliminate the remote and change the way gaming is played.  Regardless of whether you are a Kinect fan or not, the tech behind it is pretty awesome: webcam to create image, IR laser to measure distance, and a unique microchip to track people in 3D.  While Kinect is still difficult to operate in many ways, its usefullness is now spreading beyond the gaming sphere to scientific applications.

When Microsoft made Kinect, they made it compatible with both Xbox and Windows.  (Good call)  Since then, people have been developing many uses for the Kinect, including a crew at the University of Dundee in Scotland.  They are using Kinect to manipulate their “laser tweezers,” which are super focused laser beams that trap, move, or rotate very tiny particles.  They are calling their application HoloHands.

Here is a video of HoloHands in action:

HoloHands can be used to manipulate cells and measure force in molecular motors, among other things.  While laser tweezers have been used in the medical field for awhile, controlling them has always been an issue, they’ve tried using a computer mouse, track pad, iPad, and are now using the Kinect.   The Kinect lets the Scottish group to trap particles, pick them up, and push them using only hand movements.

If you are a Kinect player, you know that the system is less than perfect for detecting movement and will therefore probably leave a bit to be desired using HoloHands.  Plus, these guys are scientists, not body builders, I bet their arms get really tired after awhile!  I use Kinect everyday to workout, and I would get tired for sure.

Regardless of whether HoloHands is used more as an education tool or an actual scientific tool, it opens up a world of real world uses for the Kinect – like moving building materials or  operating on living beings using only a wave of the hand!  Although, I’d honestly need Kinect to be much more accurate before anyone is operating on me.

So when you think of Kinect-controlled laser beams, what use comes to mind?  I’d say human sized pong.  Aw yeah…