If you were lucky enough to snag yourself an Xbox One for Christmas, you're probably using the Kinect sensor for fairly standard things like, you know, playing games. The guys at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, however, are using the technology slightly differently -- to control a robotic arm.
This is not something that is completely new, but the second generation Kinect offers a far greater level of precision which means there is greater potential for it to be put to delicate work. Engineer Victor Luo explained to Engadget that the Kinect's advanced capabilities were extremely valuable: "It allowed us to track open and closed states, and the rotation of the wrist. With all of these new tracking points and rotational degrees of freedom, we were able to better manipulate the arm."
NASA is using the Kinect 2 in conjunction with an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This enables the users to get a fully immersive experience as they remotely manipulate objects. As you can see in the video below, there is a slight problem with lag at the moment, but this is something that can be addressed.
Things are obviously at a fairly experimental stage at the moment, but there's no knowing quite how far this could be taken. It's certainly interesting to thank that someone on Earth could stand in front of a Kinect bar and virtually pick up rocks on another planet! Who said consoles are for kids?!
Check out the video of the robotic arm in action.