From mowing the lawn to tracking hurricanes and providing therapeutic treatments, robots are undoubtedly becoming an integral part of the way we do things. But to help these machines interact effectively with their environment, engineers need to provide them with artificial intelligence tools that can help them recognize the things they may encounter.
Enter a new crowdsourcing project that makes it easy for people with a Microsoft Kinect motion-sensing device to make 3D scans of anything and everything around them. Robotics engineers plan to create a catalog of scans that will help them design intelligence tools into robots.
The Website for the Kinect@Home project asks volunteers to "help the robots." Using their Kinect, volunteers produce 3D models that can be shared on the site or with friends, embedded into other Websites, or imported into 3D modeling software to be used in other applications.
The project provides instructions, a plug-in, drivers, and installation software. Once the software is installed on a local computer, people can point their Kinect at whatever they want to scan and begin creating their models.
Microsoft released the first Kinect for its Xbox 360 video game console in late 2010. A version for Windows came out early this year. Microsoft has sold more than 18 million copies of the device, which lets people interact with the Xbox or a Windows PC using gestures and spoken commands.