Scientists using Kinect to study locusts

Ecologists from Princeton using Microsoft's motion-recognition tech to study grasshopper creatures; research could aid in swarm prediction.

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Gamers may enjoy using Kinect to boogie in Dance Central or fire off commands in Mass Effect 3, but those aren't the only functions for the technology. CNN reports that Princeton ecologist Iain Couzin is using Kinect to understand how the swarming locust critters function alone and in groups.

Could Kinect help predict locust swarms? Couzin thinks so.

Couzin and his lab have made numerous discoveries using Kinect, some planned, some not. One interesting bit was an accidental finding that concluded locusts in the western Sahara desert form massive swarms because they are attempting to fend off the pursuits of their cannibalistic pals.

"We just discovered by accident that the locusts were trying to eat each other," he said. "So when it looks like a cooperative swarm, in actual fact it's a selfish, sort of cannibalistic horde. Everyone is trying to eat everyone else and trying to avoid being eaten."

Couzin and his team are using Kinect to collect "more detailed data" about how locusts--and other organisms--behave, and the information he finds could end up saving lives. Locust swarms cause numerous deaths in West African countries by moving across the desert and devouring all crops in their path. However, with the help of Couzin's research, scientists may one day be able to forecast locust swarms like any other weather event.

"Why this is important is that we can now build better predictive models and computational models of where swarms may break out," Couzin said. "So that could be very helpful for control measures."

Discussion

53 comments
lily_tiger
lily_tiger

"CNN reports that Princeton ecologist Iain Couzin is using Kinect to understand how the swarming locust critters function alone and in groups."

 

Apparently CNN didn't look into this story before they reported it. It seems the actual story was that Iain Couzin is using Kinect INSTEAD of studying swarming locusts. On the plus side, word is he's pretty good at Dance Central 2 and he has issued a formal challenge to any and all takers.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

I hope this news encourages MS to make Kinect 2 even better, so that more gamers will accept it.

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

Apparently the Locust are already bored of It...

Dubaholick
Dubaholick

This is actually quite interesting but wouldn't there be a piece of technology more suited to this type of study? It seems a tad bit coincidental that the Kinect was the best piece of tech to use, it almost seems like a clever sales pitch from Microsoft. 

steelmouth
steelmouth

Finally some use for kinect in hard core AAA shooter ,I can wait to study and kick those locust arse in Gears of War 4

ahpuck
ahpuck

 Funny, cause every time I see a kinect game crickets is what I hear.  chirp chirp

zpluffy
zpluffy

People why Hatin on kinect, I used it on a lot of things

-Use it to open tray, so i can crouch down to my xbox to put the disc in the tray without pressing the button

- I also use it to play games by saying kinect play without pressing the button in the controller that I am holding

-I also use it to play around with the hand cursor cause it's fun sometimes

-I also use it to...you know kinect

There's alot 

Banefire76
Banefire76

I thought science was benefited by the use of tools that measured with some degree of accuracy. This is obviously a lame attempt at a publicity stunt to convince the public that kinect is not the piece of trash that it is.

iluvOP
iluvOP

Well this has to be the first usefull use for kinect.

obsequies
obsequies

kinect is useless..what a waste of energy

phillkillv2
phillkillv2

To the morons that are saying Kinect is useless.... You clearly haven't tried it.

hadlee73
hadlee73

So when does Grasshopper: The Game get released? :P

DeadrisingX1
DeadrisingX1

Wow, the Kinect is useful for something...

Falru
Falru

The most useful use of Kinect to date.

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

Hey, as long as we don't start using Kinect to chainsaw-melee Locust, I'm fine with this kind of activity.

Vampire64
Vampire64

It will be useless also for that

BlackLense
BlackLense

LOL, another gimmick to sell kinect.

Shadow4020
Shadow4020

Eating each other? Where did locusts get bath salts?

NTM23
NTM23

Well that is cool, but it still doesn't make me want to buy it to play games. Maybe the Kinect technology has a better chance in something else than for gaming.

interrasteral7
interrasteral7

In my opinion, it is ridiculous that the Kinect can be use for science, but it can not play any good core games. 

TheBlackEclipse
TheBlackEclipse

I've seen a few stories about scientists using Kinect for various things. I suppose Kinect has more Practical value than Entertainment value.

NS_Sonic204
NS_Sonic204

Take it from Marcus, locusts are nothing to screw around wi... oh. Wrong locusts.In that case, interesting.

Kaiinel
Kaiinel

They've found a way to make the Kinect actually useful.

Kudos to them.

zzamaro
zzamaro

sounds good, at least kinect can be used for those things

JustinFroese
JustinFroese

Use Kinect! :NO:

Okay then, use Kinect in the name of science! STILL :NO:

bloodlust_101
bloodlust_101

Little confused here, they are using a crappy 640x480 camera to study insects? Why dont they use a superior webcam if they wanted to be cheap about it? It doesnt even explain how kinect, in any way, is benefiting the research other than the idea of 'we have crappy low res footage of a bug eating another bug a few metres away'.

dirty-mushi
dirty-mushi

I hope they are ready to get sued by Microsoft. 

TheArcade
TheArcade

I support Kinect being used to study Locusts.

Shame-usBlackley
Shame-usBlackley

Should have read: Scientists using Kinect to study retards.

obsequies
obsequies

 @Unfallen_Satan I really dont see there being a kinect 2...not the next gen anyways..it was released late in the 360 cycle and it was expensive..it will be backwards compatible with the 720..motion controls are only a fad that are bassicaly there to be a "competitor" with the wii which was overdone years ago..the connect was a flop

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

 @Dubaholick

 It could be that the system is good enough but also cheaper to set up than other motion capture systems.

obsequies
obsequies

 @phillkillv2 I liked you're comment because I thought somebody should..so you don't feel bad

The5thFan
The5thFan

 @bloodlust_101 

and why would this be on gamespot i understand the kinect refference but it doesnt say anything at all at how they used it to study them. i for one did not come here to read whats new in the world of locusts

airmikee99
airmikee99

 @bloodlust_101 You don't understand how using a camera attached to a computer would allow a human being to see movement and actions that a naked human eye can't detect?

 

Really?

 

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

 @obsequies

 I thought I read an article about MS's work on the next generation Kinect, but I guess I misremembered. I don't agree that motion control is a fad though. Current controllers have largely stayed the same since the earliest console days and pretty much have reached the limit of innovation in terms of hardware contribution to gameplay. There is only so much that can be done with controllers, regardless of the genius behind game design. Perhaps motion control won't become a generation of its own, but it's definitely an important step in the evolution of digital entertainment.

 

The Kinect, though, may be just a fad. After all, I don't really see the Xbox audience as receptive to the kind of games that use motion control. The dominant market seems to be the TPS, FPS and action adventure crowd. That's alright though. Once PC-TV HD interface becomes more common, the Kinect can become a tool for PC games that can make better use of motion control. I just hope MS doesn't give up on it altogether if they no longer want to use it for the Xbox.

bloodlust_101
bloodlust_101

 @airmikee99

I understand that a 640x480 camera is a poor choice for such a task. Think about it, its 2 bugs, in a swarm, at 640x480. Or, you can have a 1080p camera with higher frame rates, and a higher quality sensor and glass in front, capturing significantly more information.

 

At a resolution of 640x480, you would need quite a magnified lens to see actions that the human eye cannot see. And I dont believe the kinect has a decently magnified lens if it has to be used in a livingroom setting for 2 people at once.

 

Digital cameras from the turn of the century had 6 megapixel sensors, thats effectively just over 2800x2100. Here is an example of what you will see with kinect, get a picture of locust from a metre away, resize the picture to be 640x480, and then tell me what the heck is going on.

airmikee99
airmikee99

 @bloodlust_101 I'm having trouble finding a 2800x1200 or HD camera that already has a computer and software attached to it to detect motion, especially one that costs as little as a Kinect.  I work for a home security company, our motion sensors alone cost as much as the entire Kinect.

 

The OpenKinect project has ways to increase the color camera to 1280x1024, so it simply appears the Kinect can do more than you think it can do.

 

And seriously, twenty years ago people were still using science with computers and cameras that had resolutions less than 640x480.