A bunch of students at MIT have developed a robot helicopter that pilots itself using on-board Kinect sensors.
It's been a while since we've heard about new applications for Microsoft's Kinect. After the rash of fun, cool and sometimes sexy stuff that came out the first few months that Kinect was on the market, it feels like DIY engineers moved on to other projects. Maybe that's because they were cooking up something really cool, like this group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have devised an autonomous quadrotor that can pilot itself in places where GPS isn't available. Because of the video and depth information that the Kinect provides, all of the sensing and computing occurs on the quadrotor itself and negates the need for it to communicate with motion-capture systems to allow it to avoid obstacles.
"At MIT, we have developed a real-time visual odometry system that can use a Kinect to provide fast and accurate estimates of a vehicle's 3D trajectory," the project's page at MIT reads. "The visual odometry runs in real-time, onboard the vehicle, and its estimates have low enough delay that we are successfully able to control the quadrotor using only the Kinect and onboard IMU, enabling fully autonomous 3D flight in unknown GPS-denied environments."
I'm no roboticist, but that's pretty damn cool. This project was funded by both the U.S. Navy and the Army Research offices so it's possible we may have Kinect powered drones being used in battle in the future.
I wonder if Microsoft will get anything from that?