Microsoft’s ‘Beamatron’ Uses Kinect to Create Virtual RC Car

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Neat things can happen when you pair Kinect with a projector, as Microsoft Research recently demonstrated.

The group’s latest creation is called “Beamatron.” It uses Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect camera, a projector and a spotlight rig to create images that interact with the real world. In a demonstration video, Principal Researcher Andy Wilson shows how a virtual remote control car can bump into real world obstacles. The rig also compensates for distance from the projector, so as the car drives up a ramp, the image stays the same size.

(MORE: Top Five Uses for Your Kinect Besides Gaming)

Without Kinect, the car would get larger as it moved closer to the projector, and would simply pass over obstacles. The Kinect camera, however, is able to create a 3D model of the room, so the RC car program knows when the vehicle’s path should be blocked. It’s not the smoothest demo, but it shows what could be possible with the Kinect technology.

As The Verge points out, this is the second recent Kinect experiment by Microsoft Research. Earlier, the company demonstrated the “Holoflector,” an “augmented reality mirror” that reflects an image of the user, and allows that image to interact with other virtual objects.

Of course, using Kinect for other applications beyond Xbox 360 gaming is not a new idea. Developers outside of Microsoft have been tinkering with Kinect every since it launched for Xbox 360 in late 2010. Now Microsoft is getting in on the fun.

Still, most of these projects are rough experiments, not commercial products. It’ll take an influx of Kinect-integrated laptops — which are rumored to be in the making — and a proper marketplace for software before practical Kinect applications go mainstream.

MORE: 5 Kinect Windows Apps I’d Like to See