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Rumored Kinect 2 Upgrades Could Be Big News for Robotics

Higher resolution motion tracking? Emotion detection? Lip reading? Rumor has it that the Kinect 2 can do it all

2 min read
Rumored Kinect 2 Upgrades Could Be Big News for Robotics

Ready for some mostly unsubstantiated rumors about the next generation Kinect system? According to the Eurogamer blog (who cites a "development source" at Microsoft), the Kinect 2 will feature a bunch of upgrades which could allow creative roboticists to do all kinds of awesome new stuff.

The current Kinect is limited in both frame rate and resolution by the amount of data that it's allowed to push back through its USB controller. Kinect 2 will allow for much greater data throughput, whether it's using a beefed-up controller or an entirely new interface like USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt:

"It can be cabled straight through on any number of technologies that just take phenomenally high res data straight to the main processor and straight to the main RAM and ask, what do you want to do with it?"

What do we want to do with it, you ask rhetorically? What don't we want to do with it? Let's see, how about lip reading? Yes, supposedly Kinect 2 will do that. It will also supposedly be able to detect which direction people are facing and track the pitch and volume of their voices and match them with facial characteristics to measure different emotional states.

While the sensor upgrades incorporated in the Kinect 2 will potentially offer much better SLAM and human tracking, some intriguing possibilities come up when you've got a self-contained plug n' play system that can do emotion recognition. You've got plenty of time to think up creative ideas, since we're probably looking at a 2012 unveil followed by a 2013 release. That is, we're looking at it if you believe all this, and there's no reason you should, except that it's kind of fun to get excited for no reason. Yay!

[ Eurogamer ] via [ Engadget ]

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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
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

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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