Hands-On With the Next Generation Kinect: PrimeSense Capri

The new Kinect sensor: It's smaller, it's slightly cheaper, but is it better?

2 min read
Hands-On With the Next Generation Kinect: PrimeSense Capri

PrimeSense's 3D sensor, which is what's inside the Microsoft Kinect, has revolutionized vision for very cheap and very expensive robots. That's not what it was supposed to do: it was supposed to help lazy gamers get off their couches and jump around a little bit. PrimeSense is still very focused on marketable consumer applications with the next generation of the 3D sensor, called Capri, but we're more interested in what it'll do for our robots. At CES last week, we got some hands-on time with Capri, and we have some details for you.

Engineers are familiar with the idea of being able to pick two of the following: faster, better, cheaper. PrimeSense has instead gone with much smaller, probably cheaper (although we're not sure), and arguably just a little bit worse when it comes to performance. The overall size of the sensor has shrunk by a factor of 10, which is really the big news here, and otherwise, most of the specs have stayed the same. Here's what you'll get with Capri:

  • Field of View 57.5×45

  • Range 0.8m-3.5m

  • VGA depth map (640×480)

  • USB 2.0 powered

  • Standard off the shelf components

  • OpenNI compliant

PrimeSense told us that their focus was to "maintain" performance while focusing on miniaturization and cost reduction. And performance is nearly the same, with the exception of there being no RGB camera. This isn't great news for robotics, since having an integrated color camera is a nice feature, but we have to remember that we're just piggybacking on the fact that PrimeSense is really trying to get into the mobile market: Capri is small enough that it'll be able to fit into tablets (and eventually smartphones), and for pure 3D sensing, an RGB camera just adds cost and complexity that's unnecessary for the application. It's tough that robotics isn't yet a big enough market to allow us to dictate features for something like Capri, but as long as we can adapt this sort of technology to make robots cheaper and more capable, we'll get there.

The first engineering samples of Capri are expected to ship in 2-3 months, with consumer kits ready to go by the end of the year. 

[ PrimeSense ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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