Scanning your home with kinect could improve 3D robot vision

August 29, 2012

(Credit: Wired/Kinect@Home)

Seeking a way to crowdsource better computer vision, roboticists have launched a website that allows users to record pieces of their environments in 3-D with a Kinect camera, Wired Science reports.

Called Kinect@Home, the open-source and browser-based effort remains in its infancy. Users have uploaded only a few dozen models of their living room couches, kitchen countertops and themselves.

Should the project catch on, however, researchers may be able to amass 3-D data to improve navigation and object-recognition algorithms that allow robots to cruise and manipulate indoor environments.

“For robots to work in everyday space and homes, we need lots of 3-D data” said roboticist Alper Aydemir of the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. With the advent of Microsoft’s low-cost yet highly effective 3-D camera system, called Kinect, and sanctioned ways to hack the device, computer vision research is experiencing a revolution.

“I think we’ve developed a win-win situation,” said Aydemir, who leads the Kinect@Home effort. “Users get access to 3-D models they can embed anywhere on the internet, and we use this data to create better computer vision algorithms.”

What’s more, helper robots are only useful if they can recognize and interact with a dizzying variety of objects. Some crowdsourced schemes use Amazon Mechanical Turk to categorize objects in 2-D images acquired by robots, but these images don’t inform any item’s 3-D shape or behavior.

In hopes of gathering these and other data that define human environments, Aydemir created Kinect@Home. Users install a plugin, attach their Kinect to a computer, and start recording whatever they please.

Potential privacy and theft issues may be of concern for some users. — Ed.