One Small Step for Xbox – Kinect to be Used in Space
While the cynical gamers among us lambast Kinect as being all but useless in the living-room, it seems that engineers at Surry Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) have found a way of using Kinect as a sensor for spacecraft, to help them dock with each other in orbit.
Docking spacecraft Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is a fascinating pursuit; the Kinect-enabled craft would be expected to maintain a millimetre-steady lock on each other while simultaneously cruising at 17,000 mph, a few hundred miles away from the planet. I find this ironic given that Kinect struggles understanding the 10 or so square feet in my living room. Perhaps the emptiness of space will prove a less cluttered and therefore more stable arena for Kinect to do its thang.
The proposed Kinect satellite is named STRaND-2, and as yet remains in development, not unlike the real thing. The reason Kinect would prove so useful for this endeavour is that a large issue with docking spacecraft in orbit is having accurate, real-time position data. Things like propulsion and mechanical docking ports have been pretty much perfected by now, through work done on the International Space Station and preceding missions. The thing that can still trip up the finest space pilot is the real-time data.
Recently there was a historic docking at the International Space Station; the first private spaceship – the SpaceX Dragon – docked to the ISS on a cargo delivery mission. During the docking, though, they actually had to back the ship up and swirl it around because the reflection from the sun was screwing up the position data, preventing the docking controller on the space station from grappling it with the robot arm. If only they’d had a Kinect!
It is frustrating that Kinect may indeed be capable of guiding advanced spaceships, yet it struggles to track my head when I’m playing Forza 4. This news just goes to show that either this satellite is a bad idea, or Kinect is really not using its potential on the Xbox. Or perhaps both…