The final hack to round out our top five has one goal in mind: saving lives in emergency situations. This application of Kinect's capabilities, like two others in our list, was born in a graduate university program. An engineering team at the University of Warwick has coupled the Kinect with a mobile base to create a robot capable of serving as remote eyes for rescue workers.
In high-danger situations like collapsed buildings, where conditions are simply too hazardous for human crews to enter, this mobile robot uses the mapping abilities of the Kinect to hunt for signs of life. While the rescue robot is not able to move survivors, it is capable of mapping the areas it scans in 3-D to enable rescue personnel to concentrate their efforts and minimize risk to all involved. Because this application of the Kinect's motion-detection system is less expensive and more sophisticated than the laser-based alternative, it may soon be tested in real-world situations [source: Lee].
As is immediately apparent, the Kinect's possible applications are as varied as the developers working on them. Hacks that turn the device into an artist's brush, a musical instrument, an autonomous mini helicopter, a sculpting tool and an e-mail command interface have popped up since the Kinect's release, with fresh hacks coming to light every day. It's entirely possible that at some point in the future, the Kinect's association with the Xbox 360 will be eclipsed by its contributions to the robotics and art worlds.