Three Swedish researchers from the Centre for Autonomous Systems (CAS) at the Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden are asking people to get involved in a crowd sourcing project to build a library of 3-D models of objects captured using their Microsoft Kinect cameras.
The idea behind the so-called Kinect@Home project -- which was started by Alper Aydemir, Rasmus Goransson and Professor Patric Jensfeltaims -- is to attempt to acquire a vast number of such models from the general public that robotics and computer vision researchers can then use to improve their algorithms.
The researchers chose the Microsoft Kinect camera for some pretty obvious reasons. Not only can it be used to capture both RGB images and depth values of objects, since its launch it has entered the homes of some 20 million people, making it a perfect piece of hardware for a crowd sourcing task.
Before any captured image frames of an object from the Kinect can be uploaded to the Kinect@Home server, users first need to connect their Kinect camera to their PC and install a plug-in. Once they have done so, the website starts showing the live Kinect images on a browser to confirm that the software is working correctly.
Next, the plug-in can be used to start uploading captured frames of an object to the researchers Kinect@Home server. After uploading is complete, optional metadata can be associated with the model of the object. As well as uploading their own models to the site, users can also download models created by others and import them into their own 3-D modeling software packages.
To display the models over the web, the resolution of the models has been lowered at present, but the researchers say that as they acquire faster servers and more bandwidth, this will change dramatically.
At present, the Kinect@Home browser software plug-in only runs on a PC running Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows 7 and 8, but the Swedish software engineers would be pleased to talk to any other software developers that might be interested in porting the browser plug-in to the Linux or Mac operating systems, as well as providing support for Microsoft’s Software Developer Kit.
If you do give the software a try and your models look a bit messed up when they appear in the browser, it's probably your fault. To get the best results from the system, the software developers advise users to move their Kinect cameras slowly and not to point them towards blank walls, featureless or empty spaces.
Personally, I'm tempted to go out and buy a Kinect just to see what Kinect@Home is like. But if you already have one, you can try out the software here.