Connecting with Microsoft Kinect

A fun way to get messages into minds through body-tracking

The idea was simple and catchy: Track people as they stand or walk along a 32′ video wall at a tradeshow, and link them to randomly generated thought-bubbles that contain fun, client messages and that move on the wall as the people move. That’s what 3D Exhibits asked Perfect Prototype (PPT) to create for its booth at the Exhibitor 2012 Show.

The Specs
The tracking wall comprised five, 2×2 monitor abutting sections, each with 1360 x 768 resolution that formed one continuous screen. That meant five computers and five Kinect systems running the same program to present a unified image. The thought-bubbles were overlaid on a single video that stretched the entire 32 feet and constantly played behind them.

To add variety while controlling complexity and cost, the content of the more than 50 thought-bubbles changed as each one moved from screen to screen.

Anticipating Issues
A replica of the wall was set up in Perfect Prototype’s Philadelphia shop for testing camera placement, programming, and other tasks. Camera placement was critical to accommodate:

  • The correct distance for tracking people in front of the wall;
  • variations in lighting at the show;
  • sudden motion;
  • and camera wobble;

At a pivotal point in the project development, we produced a video of the wall in action for the client’s review.

Client Collaboration
The client supplied the fabrication, hardware, background video footage, and graphic design of the thought-bubbles. Perfect Prototype handled the hardware specification, graphic production, interactive and electronic motion-sensing programming, site replication testing, and installation. PPT’s interactives technologist Matt Browning attended the show to calibrate the unit and provide technical support, if needed.

Booth visitors were intrigued and responded intuitively, playing with the thought-bubbles by moving and reading the varied messages as onlookers watched them.

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