Drive Your Comfy Chair with Kinect Hack

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Right, you’re saying, because tooling around in a plush La-Z-Boy has so many practical uses, but extrapolate from this Kinect hack and you might imagine all sorts of serious medical applications–say motion-controlled stairlifts, or wheelchairs that respond to twists of your head. Also, less serious ones, say trips to the fridge for a beer without ungluing your seat-affixed derriere.

Crunchgear spotted Microsoft’s MIX11 “mobile armchair” during a demonstration and snapped pictures of a guy essentially waving his hands–attached to nothing–to make it move (a Kinect sensor perched atop a forward vertical pylon reads his every gesture). The chair could move forward or backward, turn with omnidirectional wheels, and even recline on command. Travel back in time not half a century and we’d almost call that “magic.”

Sure, this kind of tech was always in the cards–writers and futurists have conjured fictional prototypes for decades–but it’s kind of cool to see it actually happening. Microsoft’s KinectChair (worth a trademark?) was assembled using Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released Kinect PC SDK, a software toolkit designed to give would-be motion control hackers an officially supported path to controller-free inventing.

What’s next? As noted, imagine wheelchairs with sensors that react to hand motions, or if not hand motions, head motion. Also: You know how the Segway has auto-balancing gyros? Imagine a version that adds steering, accelerating, or braking without handlebars (so parades of frumpish-looking tourists wearing aerodynamic helmets can look even creepier wheeling around historical sites). And since we’ve all seen Wall-E, well, I wouldn’t want to contribute to the delinquency of our culture, but there’s always that angle, too.