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….


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.