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Scotland university uses Kinect to control lasers and manipulate particles

A team of researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland have utilized the Xbox 360 Kinect as a sensor to control optical tweezers, a set of lasers that manipulate microscopic particles, reports the BBC.

The Kinect-based interface, called "HoloHands," allows physicists to control particles through body movements. HoloHands has already been tested moving silica particles, but before it can be used for research purposes a way must be found to correct the peripheral's latency and occasional misinterpretation of body movements.

Team leader Dr. David McGloin noted the Kinect's potential with optical tweezers, which have been used in labs since the 1970s as a way to interact with individual particles on the microscopic level and which have been somewhat difficult to control in the past.

"We have a lot of video game enthusiasts here, and we came to the conclusion that Kinect had the potential to allow us to build a very natural and intuitive interface that would appeal to a wide range of potential users," McGloin said. "We're always open to new ways of working and keeping an open mind about these things is essential in science.

"There is great potential as a teaching aid that could show a new generation of students the potential of optical tweezers," he added. "Optical tweezers and beam manipulation technologies are increasingly found in undergraduate teaching laboratories. The use of a Kinect offers a fairly low-cost interface to control hi-tech equipment and allow interdisciplinary skills to be developed."

The Kinect has seen recent widespread use outside of controlling the Xbox 360. The peripheral has been used for Minority Report-style security surveillance and as a ghost tracker on paranormal television show Ghost Adventures. The Kinect is also changing the landscape of medical care in Japan, where hospitals have begun using it as a tool for accessing patient information during procedures.

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