Exploring the Kinect with Processing (and Failing)

January 23, 2018

During the early conceptualisation of Being (TBD), I realised that I would need to use the Kinect to capture depth data (the importance of which is explained here [link to be added]). I was extremely excited about the opportunity to use the device with Processing, especially with all the potential creative applications.


A Kinect Primer


Below is a brief technical explanation of how the Kinect (or other IR depth-sensing motion-control cameras work), mostly for my own reference.



Other References:

  • https://jahya.net/blog/how-depth-sensor-works-in-5-minutes/

  • http://www.vivekc.com/understanding-how-depth-sensing-cameras-work/

I personally own a Kinect, specifically Model 1414, which came bundled along with my Xbox 360. The only thing I was missing was a power supply/USB adapter which was crucial considering my Kinect's connector looked like this:


So, scouring the online buy/swap stores, I finally found one, picked it up from the seller, and hooked my Kinect up to my laptop. And with all that out of the way, I was finally able to start cranking out incredibly breathtaking interactive visualisations, right?


Well, not exactly. 


Technical Hurdles


I had to familiarise myself with how a Kinect worked with Processing. So, like all struggling Creative Media students, I turned to the popular Processing guru himself, Daniel Shiffman.



I download the OpenKinect library for Processing, type in the codes, and follow Shiffman's videos. Everything seemed to run smoothly until I realised that my Kinect wasn't being recognised in Processing. In fact, it claimed that there were no Kinects connected at all. 



After poking around a few confusing tech forums, comprehensive FAQs, and issue reports on GitHub, I managed to find several users who had a similar issue to mine. Apparently, my laptop did not have the appropriate driver to communicate with the Kinect. 


In order to solve that problem, I had to install libfreenect,  a userspace driver for the Kinect. But in order to that, I needed to install a package manager to install the driver. According to the OpenKinect project website, one of the ways I could do that was to install the package manager Homebrew.

And after all that... The Kinect suddenly roared to life and the camera tilted up and down (which I didn't even know it could do).



 It worked! 




I continued to search for more solutions. I installed formulas for the package installer that I was apparently missing, restarted my laptop several times, and retyped test codes over and over. At this point, I realised that I had spent more hours than I should have trying (and failing) to solve this one issue. I probably should have just contacted my advisor. 


What Next?


I have several options:


1. Borrow another Kinect from the school or from someone else and see if the problem is with the Kinect itself.


2. Test my Kinect model with different computers at school (both Mac or Windows) and see if the problem is with my personal computer.


3. Look into other models of the Kinect or similar devices such the Intel RealSense Camera

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Russell Dela Bueno Balad | russellbalad@gmail.com | Hong Kong

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