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On June 1, 2009, Microsoft announced the Kinect, and with it, they promised the birth of a new generation of motion-controlled video games. Instead, we got a virtual puppy petting machine and awkward wedding-dance simulator. But some particularly handy people took a look at the Kinect and saw the true potential. Here's what they gave us ...

5
Holograms

Holograms are a pretty big staple of science fiction universes. They replaced email in Star Wars, chess in Star Trek, television in The Jetsons and even revived the Jaws series in Back to the Future Part II.

The Hack:

Along with jetpacks, hoverboards and blow-job robots, holograms are one of those future cockteases that were promised to us long ago, but that nobody ever shows any sign of delivering. But now, using just a Kinect and an ordinary TV, this hacker has made himself a full-fledged helicopter hologram at home. The programmer himself admits that the hack isn't technically impressive, but it's the simplicity and novelty that are really jaw-dropping here: The Kinect uses its body tracking software to keep tabs on the user's head in three-dimensional space, telling the software which angle you're viewing the image from. The image adjusts on the fly, creating a cheap and dirty "hologram" effect using the same simple 2-D displays we all already own. It's what would happen if MacGyver was way into video games instead of helping people or saving the world or any of that stupid crap.


If it brings us one step closer to holo-porn, it automatically counts as altruism.

So What Does This Mean for Gaming?

It's still technically a 2-D display, so it might not mean holographic games quite yet (at least not beyond the puzzle variety, though it would make a sweet-ass Jenga simulator). But it could mean the end of all camera issues. No more bullshit auto-centering right as you're about to make a key jump, no more getting stuck in corners, no more awkward, clumsy controls. It looks where you look and shows you what you would see from that angle. Do you know what that means, console gamers? We get an entire analog stick back! We could use it for anything: Aiming independent of the camera, movement control of AI partners or just swinging a virtual arm around like a total spaz!


Or just spending the whole day flipping out your cats.

And yeah, we know, the hack isn't exactly beaming images out into the center of your living room or anything, so maybe it's cheating to call it a hologram. But think about it: You know you're going to use this shit to upskirt that busty video game heroine at some point, and a 2-D image is a hell of a lot easier to hide than a translucent ghost ass hovering in the middle of your living room.

4
Hunter Killer from The Terminator

The Terminator franchise focuses on the eponymous death-delivering machines that plague humanity. But the giant Austrian robots were not the only variety: There were spiders, tanks, boats and even Hunter Killer drones, which were tiny, lethal unmanned scout aircraft. Hey, they might be among the less impressive deadly robots, but that's better than no deadly robots at all, right?

zickeleng
"When you can snatch the trachea from my throat, your training will be complete."

The Hack:

In this clip, some UC Berkeley professors basically glued a Kinect to a quadrotor, then programmed the Kinect to fly the copter while avoiding obstacles. What's the difference between this and those army UAVs? There's no human control here. The whole thing is self-contained. There's an onboard computer that does the software heavy lifting and even backup sensors in case the Kinect malfunctions. Although the video doesn't specifically mention it, the next step is obviously duct-taping a Glock to the thing and seeing how well it pops off headshots.


Dear God, don't taunt it!

So What Does This Mean for Gaming?

If the future is Augmented Reality Gaming -- the practice of overlaying video games on the real world -- then cheap, autonomous gaming drones are going to be invaluable. They could keep score for you, track your progress through the game/world or even stand in for virtual enemies. And when they inevitably become self-aware and the game becomes horribly real, hey, at least you'll die doing what you loved: being shot by robots.

Photos.com
Honestly, we all have it coming.

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3
Real-Time Tracking AI

HAL 9000 was the intelligent piloting system that went haywire and took over Dave's ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL's primary abilities were tracking humans with its cameras, learning and speaking in an unsettling hushed monotone like a registered sex offender.


"Dave, I'm required by law to inform you when I enter the neighborhood."

The Hack:

We haven't compiled all of HAL's killer aspects into one single Kinect hack yet. You'd probably know if we had, as you'd be reading this from inside the blast furnace you'd been tricked into. But we sure are working on each individual trait separately: Here's a Kinect hack that doesn't just track movement, but also recognizes human forms and where they are in real space. Free bonus! It comes in creepy eyeball form.

Here's one that's learning object-recognition and speech:

Via yankeyan

And here's another whose only purpose is to ask where you are, and what exactly you think you're doing:

Via KinectHacks
"Your penis appears to be .0428 standard deviations below the mean human length."

And if your name happens to be Dave, this is all sounding terribly familiar to you right now ...

So What Does This Mean for Gaming?

Just in general, a learning machine will mean an end to clumsy, unrealistic AI. Enemies could learn which weapon you favor, which eye is dominant and even your preferred play style -- whether to be on guard for stealth attacks or a rocket-slinging death charge, for instance. But that's probably giving "camera software that recognizes stuffed giraffes" a little too much credit. The most this particular program could aspire to is a kind of futuristic R.O.B. the Nintendo robot -- a novelty peripheral that knows your name, interacts with you and plays games based on scanning real-life objects. But honestly, that's all we ever wanted out of the future: A wacky robot sidekick. If that's somehow not good enough for you, well, then you've either suffered serious trauma to the imagination lobe or you yourself are already a cold, heartless robot and see no need for the redundancy.

In which case, hey -- wanna be our sidekick?

Getty
Wait, you don't have skull-crushing strength, do you?

2
Minority Report-Style OS

Minority Report was a movie about the slick future of computer graphical user interfaces. Menus weren't clicked on and scrolled through with a mouse; they were expanded, thrown about, manipulated with a flourish and a gesture. Oh, and we guess there was some stuff about predicting the future or something? We don't know; we were too busy ogling the shiny new OS.


And then figuring out a way to surf porn with it.

The Hack:

By default, the Kinect only tracks whole-hand movement, but it can be modified to track individual fingers as well. With even further hacking, which we're going to assume consists mostly of Rollerblading and CGI effects, it's even capable of some Minority Report-style interface control. There's the simple manipulation of images with your fingertips, like an iPhone in the air:

Or you could take it the extra mile, and enable manipulation of the actual workspace environment in response to your body position:

Notice how the menus in that video are activated not via meek finger movements, but by full body thrusts and dramatic uppercuts. Sure, it might not be as efficient as mouse clicks and keystrokes, but we'd certainly spend a lot more time in the office if every quarterly financial report was compiled via Bloodsport-style cage-fighting your computer into submission.


BAM! Dude just minimized the FUCK out of that bitch!

So What Does This Mean for Gaming?

Awesome. New. Menus.

Hell, 95 percent of any strategy, sim or role-playing game is spent in the menus anyway; might as well make that feel more like time spent hacking into Gibson's cyberspace and less like time spent micro-managing Excel forms. Or take a look at this video. "God" games like SimCity and From Dust take on a whole new appeal when you're conducting yourself through virtual cityscapes like a maestro of unholy destruction. Plus, that intense Koala vs. Mountainscape fighting game they start playing at about 39 seconds in looks like it just might be the next Mortal Kombat.


As long as it doesn't have that cheap ankle-kick shit.

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1
Lightsabers

Let's not kid ourselves: You're reading Cracked. Just playing the odds, you've seen Star Wars several hundred times, read countless essays about it and might have even written snotty comments about the extended universe addressed to ignorant Internet comedians. It is highly unlikely that there are attractive members of the opposite sex watching you read this right now; you don't have to pretend you don't know what a lightsaber is.


"GAH! What is this witchcraft?!"

The Hack:

Rule 34c: If it exists, nerds will somehow use it to re-enact Star Wars. This particular nerd hacked his Kinect camera to track a wooden stick and then overlaid a glow outline on the screen. As you can see from the not-at-all-embarrassing mirror in front of the monitor, the movement is tracked 1:1 in real time. The program even mimics the sweet whoosh sound whenever the broomstick -- er, sorry, saber -- changes directions.

So What Does This Mean for Gaming?

LucasArts has been trying, and dramatically failing, to get lightsabers right in video games for several decades now. Roughly half of all current video game players would never buy another game if you could give them a real-time lightsaber emulator. It's literally all some of us are waiting for. If a game studio could adopt this technology into a Bushido-blade-like fighting game, wherein the player bats away lasers, parries incoming enemy saber blows and callously lops off Sith hands with 1:1 accurate motion capture, the amount of money suddenly flowing into their pockets would offset the weight of the Earth and throw it out of its orbit, sending us all slowly drifting into the sun.

And we wouldn't even care, because fucking lightsabers.

For more on gaming, check out 9 Video Game Easter Eggs That Took Years to Find and The 7 Commandments All Video Games Should Obey.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see how you can hack your Xbox with a hammer.

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