How The X-Box Kinect Tracks Your Moves

Dr. Katherine Isbister talks with host Ira Flatow and guests about the development of the gaming technology Kinect — and how movement can influence players' moods.

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Transcript Excerpts

7min 22sec: [Dr. Isbister] Yeah, well, we got really interested in the fact that some of the Wii games looked like they were more fun than others for players. And we knew about this effect called the physical feedback hypothesis from social psychology and essentially...the idea is, it's basically why your mom told you to stand up straight. Because if you stand up straight, you start to feel like you're confident and then you become more confident. So the idea was, well, hey, maybe these Wii games actually are putting people into these really jolly, silly, happy kinds of wonderfully upbeat states by forcing them to run around and jump around as if they feel happy, so they start to feel happy.

So in our lab, we've been building these research games that allow us to compare keyboard control versus Wii-mote control and we've actually found that this is the case. And not only that, but it brings people closer together so they feel a greater sense of social connectedness after they play around with these movement-based games.

13min 19sec: [Dr. Isbister] We've started to have these sensors and cameras everywhere, and it's more a matter of the technologist figuring out...how to design for these new technologies well, to create interesting, new experiences for people. I mean, I like to think about things like email. I mean, I spend a good portion of my day sorting through email.
 
I feel like I need reading glasses to see everything that's on the screen. And I'd much rather have sorting email be like doing tai chi in the morning.
 
And I don't see any reason why it can't be with the things like the Kinect. Once they're in the living room, I could do that, instead of sitting at my laptop first thing. It would be great.
 
19min 22sec: [Dr. Isbister] And I just want to throw in that this is the kind of thing that's a dream for researchers like myself. I mean, I still haven't got an actually developer's kit for the Wii, but we use the open-source shareable inputs to the Wii-motes. And that's how we work with the Wii technology, and -so I was very heartened to see that the Kinect's actual hardware was going to be available soon for researchers anyway to put stuff together and test in the lab.
 
22min 32sec: [Dr. Isbister] Absolutely. I think if you look at the self-help industry, they're really eager to make that work, doing things like biofeedback...
and physical posture stuff. I think it would be great.

25min 28sec: [Dr. Isbister] Yeah. I think that also if you think about the emotional components of movement, I think about things like modern dance, or just how little children like to express themselves through how they move or skip around the room, there's a lot of leeway for what you might call abstracted movement games or activities where it's not necessarily mimicking a real world motion or action, but you're giving people an excuse to move in a way that changes how they feel that may be even more abstract than bubbles. You know what I mean? Just be little swishes of color and sound and... ...be all about the emotional experience that happens as a result.
 
Exactly. Yeah, we're actually working with a woman who's analyzing some video we did of people playing Wii games. And she feels like -she's a certified Laban movement analyst, which is a style of dance notation. And she's pretty sure that she can detect when people are frustrated with the movement they're doing from their posture. So we're trying to identify what those cues are because our thinking is, well, wouldn't that be great if we could feed that back into systems like this and detect when somebody's kind of had it with the game mechanic from their posture and how they actually execute the move.