Kinect and NASA Team Up on Mars Rover Landing!

The descent and landing of the rover Curiosity, expected to finally reach Mars on Aug. 5, has been described as “seven minutes of terror” by those at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Mars Rover LogoNASA is not surprisingly filled with space geniuses and several of them video games could be a pretty incredible way to get kids to get excited about science. We were so excited to get the call from NASA and even more excited at the opportunity to work with real astronauts and rocket scientists on Mars Rover Landing, available free on Xbox LIVE today!

To play Mars Rover Landing, players will use body movements, read by the Xbox 360’s Kinect motion controller, to control the craft and attempt to land it safely on Mars. “We’ve tried to simulate that heart-pounding, sweat-dripping seven minutes using Kinect and using users’ control of their bodies to get the landing right,” Microsoft’s Dave McCarthy says.

Mars Rover TouchdownUpon entering the atmosphere of Mars, the craft is traveling at about 13,000 mph. A supersonic parachute must be properly deployed, and the heat shield, which reaches 3800 degrees Fahrenheit at its peak, must be jettisoned during the descent. Rocket engines must be deployed prior to the lowering of the tethered Curiosity rover to the surface. After that, the remainder of the craft must be flown away before the rover lands to prevent a dust cloud that could damage it. Quick reaction, paired with delicate balance is required for you to help the Rover touch down on the Red Planet safely.

Our team, partnered with developer Smoking Gun, worked closely with NASA to create an experience that was scientifically factual while still being fun to play. “We’ve tried to simulate that heart-pounding, sweat-dripping seven minutes using Kinect and using users’ control of their bodies to get the landing right,” Our faithful leader, Dave McCarthy says.

The hope is, like classic arcade titles such as Atari’s Lunar Lander, the Mars Rover Landing will inspire people of all ages to learn a little more about the incredible things we’re accomplishing far, far away… all because of the power of our imaginations.

What are you waiting for? Go download Mars Rover Landing today! Be sure to return August 5th to Xbox LIVE for even more surprises for the big day, too!

Brilliant Teens Win Top Honors with Amazing Kinect Hack

cassieandliuToday on NPR’s All Things Considered they featured a story about two high school students from Tennessee that recently won the team portion of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology with the help of Kinect.

Cassee Cain and Ziyuan Liu were first inspired when they played Dance Central.  “One day… at my house playing Kinect we got kinda curious about how the Kinect could see and critique our dance moves,” explained Cain. “This was something that sparked our interest.”

These young innovators used the Kinect sensor along with a robotic leg to analyze leg motions while walking. Their project analyzed the human gait. Considering many people working in rehabilitation do not have access to the expensive instruments traditionally used for gait analysis. The high school seniors will share the $100,000 grand prize in the team category for Kinect to analyze human walking patterns, work that could ultimately be used in prosthesis design and improvements for amputees.Science Competition

Kinect’s cameras and laser emitter were used to track points on the hip, knee and ankle. “Just by extracting those three points we were able to find the ‘knee angle’,” Cain said. “This is really useful for therapists, clinicians and prosthetists not only for fitting prosthetics, but helping people with therapy and rehabilitation.”

“We did research on stereo cameras and those cost usually around $2000 each,” Liu pointed out. “The Kinect is many, many more times affordable.”

“When further developed, their system could open avenues to bring personalized rehabilitation to the home,” said Sudeep Sarkar, a computer engineer at the University of South Florida and a competition judge. “This could potentially reduce medical costs, allowing clinicians to monitor a patient’s progress from a remote site.”

Of course, we’re thrilled to hear about this and many other ways people are using Kinect to help them make the world a better place for everyone. Congrats to these amazing innovators! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

Picasso and Sparkler

Long, long ago before Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet, there were artists that painted on things called a “canvas”. There were even different styles of art and one of them was aptly called “Abstract”. Perhaps the most renowned of these abstract artist was Pablo Picasso.

Picasso's CentaurFrom the Life photo Gallery:

“Renowned LIFE photographer Gjon Mili, a technical genius and lighting innovator, visited Pablo Picasso in the South of France in 1949. Mili showed the artist some of his photographs of ice skaters with tiny lights affixed to their skates, jumping in the dark — and Picasso’s lively mind began to race. This series of photographs, since known as Picasso’s “light drawings,” were made with a small flashlight or “light pencil” in a dark room; the images vanished almost as soon as they were created. However, while the “Picasso draws a centaur in the air” photo is rightly celebrated and famous, many of the images in this gallery are far less well-known — and equally thrilling.”

Picasso's Flower Vase

Picasso was able to make all of these without actually being able to see what he was doing until they developed the film (it wasn’t like our cameras now. They had to use hazardous chemicals to make photos on real paper!) Can you imagine what Picasso could’ve done with Kinect Sparkler? Have you ever tried to make a Sparkler image with your eyes shut? Share with us some of the great Kinect Sparkler moments you’ve created; Abstract and otherwise in the comments!