With Microsoft's release of the Kinect SDK, things seem to have slowed down a bit in the world of Kinect development. Have developers exhausted the uses of Kinect already? No way! Four researchers at Cornell University have created an AI-based system on the Kinect that can recognize what you're doing, and maybe even who is doing it.
It all starts with a standard Kinect. Through open source drivers and the PrimeSense Nite software, they were able to create a program that can tell what you're doing.
Just goes to show that Microsoft Research aren't the only ones who can incorporate AI into the Kinect. From their research paper, Human Activity Detection from RGBD Images: "Our algorithm is based on a hierarchical maximum entropy Markov model (MEMM). It considers a person's activity as composed of a set of sub-activities, and infers the two-layered graph structure using a dynamic programming approach."
In a futuristic smart home, this could be useful for getting help with common tasks. A roaming robot (à la Rosie the Robot Maid) could help you cook if you're having trouble with a recipe, or could remind you how to tie a tie if you're getting it all wrong.
Another use of this technology would be monitoring hospital patients or elders at home, making sure they're taking their medication on time and flushing the toilet.
Above are some samples from their dataset (click on to expand). "Row-wise, from left: brushing teeth, cooking (stirring), writing on whiteboard, working on computer, talking on phone, wearing contact lenses, relaxing on a chair, opening a pill container, drinking water, cooking (chopping), talking on a chair, and rinsing mouth with water."
But, what's the most likely use of this AI-based Kinect?
Surveillance. When the Kinect came out, tons of worried users speculated that Microsoft was using the technology to spy on its users. That is not the case, but this independent AI system could mean otherwise. Your employer could monitor every move you make, ensuring you don't goof off at work or steal from the company. It could replace security cameras and get rid of security guards behind the monitor. More computers will be doing the work, meaning less jobs for humans.
It definitely needs further development to be of any use to anyone, but it's yet another step forward for Kinect domination!