While gamers are off writhing in front of Kinects to control virtual objects on the screens in front of them, scientists are using the same tech for almost the same thing. They’re also flailing in front of sensors, but it’s not Dance Central 3; they’re manipulating real-life microscopic objects with a set of laser tweezers.
David McGloin and his team at University of Dundee in Scotland are specialists when it comes to laser tweezer operation, also called “optical manipulation” if you want to get fancy. The tech’s been around since the 70s, and so has the problem of controlling it well. Some of the previously proposed solutions involved computer mice, and later iPads, but now McGloin and company are trying out the Kinect.
The team has been testing the tech by moving silicon microspheres around a few micrometres at the time, and the results have been promising. Despite the intuitive interface, there are some hurdles. Kinect isn’t known for being particularly accurate, and it’s not great for moving the particles specific, measured distances. Mostly, the technique shows a lot of potential as a teaching tool, introducing students to the concept of laser-tweezers and allowing them to see first-hand the way microscopic objects act and interact on such a small scale. At the very least it should be useful for a Kinect version of Operation. [Technology Review]