Kinect Hacks the Planet!

Today,’s Wired Science column featured a story about a pretty amazing way that space brains are using Kinect to help them learn more about glaciers and asteroids.

According to the article:

“[Using the Kinect] Mankoff scanned the cave floor in 3-D. During the summer, water from lakes on the glacier’s surface had gushed through the channel he was sitting in. The Kinect was going to provide a better understanding of its size and roughness, which could help researchers predict how the ice above would flow toward the sea.”

Kinect’s three cameras as well as it’s affordable price tag make it ideal for thrifty scientists that need to record very accurate 3D data in visible and infrared wavelengths.

The article goes on to state,

“I’ve always enjoyed repurposing cheap devices, doing things that you’re not supposed to do

with them,” said Mankoff, a NASA-funded Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, studying ice and ocean interactions. “You know, the hacker ideals.”

Hey, genius*! We never told anyone not to do that with their Kinect. We love this stuff! We do advise you about is making sure you’ve got plenty of space to move (don’t see that being a huge problem on a glacier), always supervise children when they’re playing with the system (again, can’t imagine tons of toddlers on a glacier) and being sure to rest when you get tired (this is just a good rule for life, really). Okay, we may have warned you that exposure to extreme temperatures (very likely on a glacier) and moisture (also, pretty likely on a glacier) are not good for Kinect. You guys seem to be at peace with that.

We always look forward to hearing about all the ways people are using Kinect for good. Do you have a story or have you heard one like this recently? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments!

*For perhaps the first time in my life I mean “Hey, Genius!” in a sincere way.