New Hack Allows Kinect to Interpret Sign Language

Microsoft has a tendency to do a lot of dumb things, but they always seem to make up for it with something completely brilliant. When they released the Kinect (which they marketed so well that it sold over 10 million units despite having only a few good games), they could have closed off the device to all but the most clever hackers. Instead, they left the peripheral open to the whims of anyone with ambition and a good idea. The results have been increasingly amazing.

Tech News Daily reports that a group of researchers at Georgia Tech are developing a Kinect program that will be able to recognize American Sign Language. The software in turn will help the team to develop their game Copycat, which is designed to help children practice sign language. Just like that, the Kinect is being used to make the world a better place.

Currently, the software recognizes a small subset of words with 98% accuracy. The words are all broad gestures that the Kinect can easily recognize. Since the Kinect’s software is always improving, the hope is that the software will become much more accurate. “Ninety-five percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, very few of whom are fluent in sign, so we want to support these children as much as possible,” explained Helene Brashear, one of the researchers.

So while the Kinect isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with its software lineup, Microsoft must be loving the press the peripheral is receiving. The applications people are coming up with open a world of possibilities for a device that may transcend the video game space altogether.

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Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I’d rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.