AI developers can turn any webcam into a Kinect

Two AI developers have turned a simple webcam into a system that behaves just like a Microsoft Kinect using machine learning, which proves you don’t need expensive equipment to bring motion-tracking tech to your living room. 

Called Skeletor, the system was created by developer and artist Or Fleisher and software engineer and interaction designer Dror Ayalon. To bring it to life they used a webcam that cost only $10/£7, TensorFlow, Google’s open source AI platform, and game development platform Unity. 

On YouTube Ayalon writes, “Skeletron is a system that predicts joints and human skeleton position in 3d from real-time video taken by any (cheap) RGB camera, such as a webcam.” 

“The system sends the data about the position of the human body to Unity, a 3D game development engine, to allow engineers, artists, and creative technologists to use it to develop digital experiences.”

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At this stage Skeletor may just be a cool experimental project. But it’s refreshing to see a motion-tracking system that could have a whole load of applications being knocked up for less than a tenner without any sensors – especially considering the Microsoft Kinect cost $150/£106 and required a considerable amount of set-up time. 

Despite the fact Microsoft officially pulled the plug on the Kinect last year, it’s clear that the tech has inspired a bunch of other applications that put motion-tracking to good use. Most notably, the Face ID in the iPhone X, which is no surprise given Apple bought PrimeSense, the company the licensed the hardware design and chip used in the Kinect, back in 2013.