New Kinect Design Trick: Handy Potter

Handy Potter and the virtual vase

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Samuel K. Moore is IEEE Spectrum’s semiconductor editor.

New Kinect Design Trick: Handy Potter

Using a depth-sensing Kinect camera and advanced software algorithms, Purdue engineers have invented a design tool that lets you create virtual three-dimensional objects with your bare hands. According to the researchers, the system, called “Handy Potter”, contains algorithms that recognize the hand, understand that the hand is interacting with the shape, and then modify the shape in response to the hand interaction.

"We're democratizing the design process,” says Karthik Ramani, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue. You don't have to be an engineer or an accomplished potter to use this. You can be a kid."

It’s no Microsoft KinEtre, but I’s pretty neat anyway.

Ramani’s research team won an "all conference best paper" award for the Handy-Potter work at the ASME 2012 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, this week in Chicago. The paper was co-authored by Ramani and graduate students Vinayak, Sundar Murugappan, and Cecil Piya.

"Traditional tools require the use of procedures so complicated that it is difficult to become an expert," Ramani says. "Handy-Potter is more of an imagination tool. You create the shape while you are completely focused on the idea rather than bothering yourself about the right usage of the tool. The tool learns you and does not become a barrier in creation. You don't learn the tool."

There’s a Russian reversal joke in there somewhere….

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