Kinect connected to Roomba cousin

MIT student links Microsoft's motion-sensing camera to iRobot, uses it for 3D mapping, gesture command.

No Caption Provided

Having already been unlocked by software enthusiasts, the Kinect camera is now finding even more uses outside of gaming. Tech blog Singularity Hub reports that Philipp Robbel, a student at MIT's Personal Robotics Group, managed to connect Microsoft's motion-sensing camera to an iRobot Create, a small robot used by educational systems. The circular device resembles its more familiar cousin, the Roomba robotic vacuum found in many homes.

Image credit: Singularity Hub.
Image credit: Singularity Hub.

Using open-source simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) code on a wirelessly connected PC, Robbel managed to connect the Kinect's 3D camera to have it make a 3D map of the surrounding area. He also managed to get the robot to recognize the human form and even follow command gestures. In a demonstration video (see below), he directs the iRobot with a wave of his arm.

Robbel's Ph.D. dissertation at MIT is to create a team of robots, which could find missing or trapped people after a disaster. Though the iRobot would not be ideal for uneven terrain, he believes the 3D mapping could provide a map for a group of small quadrotor flying robots to investigate, and that the gesture recognition would allow one trapped person to direct the robot to another.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Join the conversation
There are 125 comments about this story
125 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for D3thN1gh7

Wow that is pretty amazing. Can't wait to see how this evolves.

Avatar image for cf_Kage

@Blue-Sky I believe the fact the Kinect has a set of 3D cameras really does make all the difference in this kind of environment

Avatar image for CPM_basic

This guy at MIT should make an ultimate Roomba Vacuum that see where it's going. Cash in.

Avatar image for legonz

Now this is awesome... hope to see more of this...

Avatar image for GotRustyB

@hordaak I've actually heard that the lag isn't as bad on the newer model of 360, which makes sense.

Avatar image for CaptainIcy

Wow this is cool. =D

Avatar image for hordaak

@majere613- Honestly I dont think the kinect was made to replace the 360 controller. It is meant for a different type of game. After playing the sports games, specifically volleyball, I understood what the possibilities were. I had to squat and use both arms to bump the volleyball. I used both arms and pushed up to set. then I jumped up and swung my arms to spike the ball. It felt natural, it was fun as heck. now, if I were going to play gears of war, I wouldnt use the kinnect. I would use the standard controller. each has its own place. They (MS) didnt say it was going to replace the standard controller with the kinect, and if a game tries to do that, then it would fail. however, It goes beyond the move (which i own) and the wii controls. for example bowling. On the kinect, you just naturally throw the ball like in real bowling. for both the kinect and move, you have to push a button. in archery, i had to buy two dild_o_s-err controllers to shoot the arrow. im just saying that it is awesome for gaming control. does it have lag? sure it does. but the lag isnt as bad as people say and its still fun. Its just a new direction for gaming. is it for everybody? no its not. but to each their own. if you dont like it, dont buy it.

Avatar image for lavaar

Dear Microsoft, I love you.

Avatar image for Blitz_Kill

Hmmm, a Kinect system connected to a Roomba vaccuum.... guess it really does "suck" XD

Avatar image for Megavideogamer

They should have a nationwide contest. Find the most creative way to use Kinect in a non gaming way until better games arrive. MS could offer a 10 million dollar reward. So that kinect will not become the virtual boy for MS?

Avatar image for dwithrow

at least something good has come out of the Kinect so far

Avatar image for prioritymail

This is just awesome beyond all comprehension.

Avatar image for deviant74

I just want my R2D2 to get me a beer. Putout a fire, and maybe defibrillat me since I won't be get off the couch anymore.

Avatar image for gamerpipe

Sweat. finally we can say "xbox pick my socks"

Avatar image for NathanWootton

this is where it all begins

Avatar image for fmacraze


Avatar image for majere613

@hordaak - first, a quick reminder that if you want someone to answer a question, you need to put their full ID in like I just did so they get a prompt that you're talking about them :) As the technology matures and players and developers get used to it, I'm sure we'll see more successful designs, it's simply a matter of time.

Avatar image for OrianaDorta

I'm glad to see those $150 are worth for something like this.

Avatar image for RadicalToenail

I've always loved the technology behind Kinect, I just never supported Microsoft using it in such a closed manner. Thankfully there are some brilliant people out there opening it up for us. Maybe it will convince Microsoft to be more open with it.

Avatar image for steelmouth

i have always said kinect is way way bigger than games in the long run its going to be more useful and popular in other things than in games (milo will blow people away if ever its fully developed, the Japanese would love it and maybe increase the x360 luck in Japan)

Avatar image for GOR_TAK

Human Giant had a hilarious sketch where SkyNet turns the roombas on us.

Avatar image for deathwish026

sounds good. why should a produst be made to only do the things its supposed to when others can adapt it. like 2 artists fighting over 1 painting. this will leed to new tech.

Avatar image for MOwens9512

If I were Microsoft I'd be kinda upset at this application of my product. Maybe it's just me but it kind of makes a mockery of Kinect hooking it to a housecleaning product. I mean I know Kinect appeals to the stay at home moms but geesh LOL. I'm also mad that this is what grant money at MIT is being used for.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

US$150 to give a robot a HUGE upgrade in its capacity to serve sure is economical.

Avatar image for blackace

I wonder what they will come up with next. I have a feeling 3D will be added to this somewhere in the future. Playing some of the sports games in 3D would be pretty cool. Microsoft should invest more in doing other things with this technology. They could make a pretty penny if they did.

Avatar image for Blue-Sky

How come no one did this with the eye toy? lol...

Avatar image for fkbwii

Pretty freakin' sweet!

Avatar image for Kezman118

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give u the beginning of the end. Microsoft, the next Skynet. But seriously, that is pretty cool.

Avatar image for kakashi6666

@Alex_09 eplain to everyone why u think kinect isnt inovitave or next gen the eyetoy is the only other thing thats ever bin released fo gameing that comes anywere near being kinda close to wat kinect is and the eyetoy sucks always hhas and it always will but kinect on the other hand if it needs to it can track every part of u r skelatin at the same time aswell as do loads of other stuff at once..... my point being nothing has ever came out for gameing that is remotely as inovitive as kinect is at the moment i for one cant wait to see were this awsome piece of tech is heading in the future

Avatar image for xchiefmegadethx

Really cool...

Avatar image for digi-demon

Big Brother is watching... and learning ?

Avatar image for shkar

that is actually good.......

Avatar image for edwise18

Wow. I gotta say i'm impressed. Who knows what potential this has.

Avatar image for tyco_ex

@ dRuGGeRnaUt: Moral of this story: stupid stuff is more fun when you're drunk. Thanks.

Avatar image for kwanzudood

all i want to see is a kinect FPS where you use a regular controller for everything else, but when you run up to a corner you can lean your body left or right to get your character to peek around cover.

Avatar image for hordaak
hordaak is it an awkward fit for gaming again?? please explain that one. try the track and field events using kinect and try it with a remote control err move controller. waaayyy better on the kinect

Avatar image for beefcakie

ALEX_09 stop thinking so hard, u might save yourself some embarrassment. if u look at the critic scores. all on par with each other. your delusional. or is ms paying everyone.

Avatar image for majere613

It still seems to me that MS are being incredibly daft in not pushing the Kinect hardware for non-gaming applications themselves. Built into your TV, for example, it could entirely remove the need for a remote control and have interesting applications for parental locks etc. Instead they're determined to push it as a gaming interface first and foremost, for which it seems at best an awkward fit. This will be an excellent technology, once it's used properly.

Avatar image for SDBusDriver1979

The creepiest thing to seek out and take up skirt shots of women ever.

Avatar image for lock445

The CoD formula of Copy+Paste and then re-skinned has now been implemented into hardware.

Avatar image for anthonycg

@gideonkain Japan has always been more open with their technological advancements...

Avatar image for Ovirew

Yeah the Kinect's recognition capabilities are pretty impressive to me. You could almost make a toy robo dog with the technology and praise and discipline it as necessary.

Avatar image for NND1

I own a Kinect and it needs some tweeks but it is surprisingly good. Big Up to M$ for taking a chance on this piece of awesome hardware...

Avatar image for spooky102

Well, I think the Kinect is better for other things than games. I could care less but I won't talktrash about it because I haven't used it but still, I think it is better for other things than games.

Avatar image for Phatjam98

MS will not go after them at all people.... MS offered a cash prize for the first person that came up with a way to use Kinect in another application. MS is encouraging people to hack it and experiment. Why would MS do this? Because it is their property and if someone comes up with a great idea it will much easier for them to get the rights too it. They will be able to purchase the rights for much less this way than if someone developed their own camera system and software to invent new ways to use it. And I agree with those of you that say dont talk about it till you experiance it. Kinect is one of the best times I've ever had... Ever. It is made for everyone and is best in a group. Get off your butts and try it... you might love it like everyone else that has tried it!

Avatar image for dRuGGeRnaUt

@Alex 09: If you haven't used it, please, don't comment on it. You haven't used it, you don't know how it works, or how well it works. And YES to me, having me walk up to my xbox, it scans my face and signs me in, then allows me to control the console with nothing more than my hands/voice?? a accessory that ACTUALLY puts you(fully) in the game. When you scatch your head between rounds, you do in the game.. I don't think ANYONE that hasn't tried it can understand the level of immersion this brings. and after one day of having kinect, I find myself feeling "bumbed" about having to use a "normal" controller.. Lazy, but true XD

Avatar image for dRuGGeRnaUt

@Alex 09 I honestly can't really understand you comment. I don't know why you're talking about oblivion or RDR. I was just stating those scores for the people saying the launch titles such. Reviews mean nothing to me. \ about the rest of you comment(about real life being more fun): \ Then why do you play ANY games at all?? why are you talking to people on GS?? isn't conversation with people in person better?? EXACTLY because you like to. Your argument does make no sense. as i don't see how i insinuated that GS gets paid for their adds.. \ Again, why are you talking about the dating in GTA4?? I don't understand what you were trying to tell me. PS: I play real guitar, and have for 15 years, still have LOTS of fun playing Rockband with my friends that can't play instruments... heck even the ones that can. I can drive in real life, but can't drive a ferrari. I like FPS but im not about to go join the military because its "MORE REAL" people play games, simple as that, theres no reason to tell people to go "learn real guitar". If people like it, let them. And how you managed to bring 9/11 into this is BEYOND ME. Thumbs up if you don't understand what Alex 09 was saying. ;)

Avatar image for Alex_09

But if the wii deserves praise, so does kinect.

Avatar image for Alex_09

@dRuGGeRnaUt Oblivion had .4 removed from it's well deserved perfect score because it had minor glitches. Red Dead Redemption got 9.5 because it also had glitches, although none were that bad. Same thing with Fallout 3. GTA 4 had major glitches at launch. Some games didn't even make it past the load screen, and Rockstar had to issue apologies. It also had absolutely useless game elements like the dating and bowling garbage, which deserved to be mentioned because they really were flaws, even if the core game was good(because imagine how much better it would have been if developers hadn't wasted time on trivial gimmick activities?). GTA 4 got 10/10. People that believe 9/11 was an inside job are conspiracy theorists with no basis for their arguments. People that believe gamespot gets payoffs for some of their glowing reviews are simply connecting the dots. Reviews have been part of game advertising ever since these sites got popular. I have never tried Kinect, but even if it is fun to pretend to play guitar(in my opinion it isn't, but anyways) no way is it as fun as actually playing a guitar once you've learned a thing or two. Same thing with boxing, dancing, or playing with an animal. I hope the kinect does well only because I know if it doesn't microsoft will make us pay for it, but I wouldn't call it innovative, let alone next generation technology.

Avatar image for glhx1rush

It's all fun and games until Microsoft's lawyers catch up with you. Wonder what that fancy degree from MIT will do for you in Federal Prison? (I'm joking, but, I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft's lawyers make some kind of appearance shortly)