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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Kinect with Archaeology

UC San Diego students preparing for future archaeological digs will likely pack a Microsoft Kinect, but it won't be used for post-dig, all-night gaming marathons. Instead, the students will use a modified version of the peripheral Xbox 360 device in the field to take high-quality, low-cost 3-D scans of dig sites.

Jürgen Schulze, a research scientist in the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), along with master's student Daniel Tenedorio, Sixth '07, have figured out a way to extract data streaming from the Kinect's onboard color camera and infrared sensor to make handheld 3-D scans of small objects and people.

"We are hoping that by using Kinect we can create a mobile scanning system that is accurate enough to get fairly realistic 3-D models of ancient excavation sites," says Schulze, whose lab specializes in developing 3-D visualization technology. Schulze and his colleagues often collaborate on high-tech devices and software for archaeological research with Thomas Levy, UCSD professor of anthropology.

Currently, the researchers can also use scans of people made with the modified Kinect to produce cheap, quickly made avatars that could conceivably be plugged right into virtual worlds such as Second Life.

—Tiffany Fox and Chris Palmer