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.
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."