Two way communication with the Kinect

There's some really interesting stuff being done with Microsoft's Kinect lately, and while they are sometimes the company we love to hate (justified, I assure you), even if the Xbox 360 may not be my gaming system of choice, the Kinect is showing to have real potential in research and wider capabilities.

My dad recently came back from a business trip to a conference up in Brisbane, and toted back a small 3-D figure of himself he said had been printed from a 3-D printer. He'd been scanned with the Kinect, slowly rotating himself in front of it as it mapped his features. While it was by no means perfect, the Kinect did a decent job.

Today I heard about the Kinect being used to translate between spoken and sign language in a true two-way conversation, via RedShark News.

I've always been interested in sign language, but I only ever got as far as learning the alphabet from the Australian system and a couple of words when I was in high school. One problem of course, is that there are different types of sign language, if you will, that makes it hard, unlike English which is spoken by a lot of people around the world, even if it is not a universal language.

Funny enough, with this technology out now it makes me consider learning sign language again, rather than simply taking advantage of this technology. This would also be a great learning tool for those looking to learn sign language, I think, as you have the visual feedback and you have a way of checking if what movements you are doing are correct (if the machine can understand you, it would seem you are!). It could also operate as a dictionary, in a way, helping you to learn any vocab you may not necessarily find in resources.

We live in some interesting times and I hope we can continue to improve the quality of life for those who are disadvantaged, such as our blind or deaf or otherwise. Accessibility is certainly a concern which has really taken off in the last year, but it's good that we are giving our minority the attention they deserve. Good luck with your research, Microsoft!