Kinect hackery is cool, and its principle advantage is in its ability to allow multi-user interaction in space. That is, it’s killer for installations. That would make it a natural for Burning Man-based interactive art. The only problem: fancy Kinect camera, meet desert sandstorm.

Open-source Kinect hacker Matt Bell decided not to wait until getting to Burning Man’s intense desert environment to test what could go wrong. Instead, he took the scientific approach, and simulated the issue in the lab. He writes in comments on his video:

Lots of people have been thinking of making Kinect-based art at Burning Man. I decided to see if playa dust would affect the sensor’s performance. Fortunately I keep a jar of Real Playa Dust (TM) around for just such a purpose. Here’s what I found…

Seal all vents in the Kinect with tape. It won’t overheat. Put a sheet of glass or clear acrylic over the sensors, as close as possible to the surface. Detection performance will still be decent out to 10ft or so.

I know about this thanks to thoughtful reflections on what Kinect can do from long-time interactive inventor and artist Tim Thompson, covered today on CDMusic:
A Kinect-Based Instrument; Polyphonic Theremin, No April Fool’s Joke?

This is the same Matt Bell who did a crazy, multiple-image 3D camera experiment, seen below.

Follow Matt on Twitter. And if you’re in the San Francisco area, they’ve been well-organized with a series of regular meetups and a coming, epic hackathon April 16-17. I wish I could be there, but it’d be great for people around the world if someone would help document for Create Digital Motion. Volunteers? Details:
Kinect Hackathon! April 16-17 @ HackerDojo!

  • I would be more worried about my laptop not liking all that dust so much. 😉

  • Peter Kirn
  • Brandon

    This is one of the best articles I've read in a long time. Thanks!

  • Kevin Hackett

    Why don't they just test it with a haser or fog machine?
    If you want a real dust simulation close to what you get at BM get some facial clay powder and a fan. I'd suggest a friends empty garage or a rented storage shed. Do it in both artificial (test a few kinds) and natural light.