The number of hacks you can do with the Kinect motion controller keeps growing and the beauty of it all is that they are all unique in their own ways. Researchers from Project STARMAC and the Hybrid Systems Labs over at UC Berkeley are using the gaming accessory as a way to help an autonomous aircraft see where its going.

The Kinect is attached to a Pelican Quadrotor for lift and movement. An onboard computer links the two together to help the whole device navigate. The result is a virtual landscape, created of dotted planar models, which not only helps the aircraft see how high it is flying but also lets it detect objects that are in its flight path. In the demonstration video embedded below, the quadrotor has been pre-programmed with a flight path and is able to avoid collisions with obstacles researchers put in front of it.

"The attached Microsoft Kinect delivers a point cloud to the onboard computer via the ROS kinect driver, which uses the OpenKinect/Freenect project's driver for hardware access," reads the video's description. "A sample consensus algorithm fits a planar model to the points on the floor, and this planar model is fed into the controller as the sensed altitude. All processing is done on the on-board 1.6 GHz Intel Atom based computer, running Linux (Ubuntu 10.04). A VICON motion capture system is used to provide the other necessary degrees of freedom (lateral and yaw) and acts as a safety backup to the Kinect altitude--in case of a dropout in the altitude reading from the Kinect data, the VICON based reading is used instead. In this video however, the safety backup was not needed."

For those who just can't get enough of Kinect hacks, here's another video:

"We've taken this exciting opportunity to port our popular DaVinci experience to the Kinect platform," reads a message on the Razorfish website. "Gestures are used to create objects and control the physics of the environment. Your hands appear in the interface which allows you to literally grab objects out of thin air and move them in the environment. Additional gestures allow you to affect the gravity, magnetism and attraction."