Can you imagine some of the technology world's best game play being combined with the immersive experience of a motion-controlled full-body interface? Nathan Olivarez-Giles posted the video above, from Christmas day, on the LA Times tech blog today, showing USC researchers playing the wildly popular game World of Warcraft with their bodies, using a hacked Microsoft Kinect interface and their own software. That software, called the Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit (FAAST), is freely available for anyone to download and train.
It's crude software so far, but the research team says they'll be making it more sophisticated with time. It looks pretty cool already.
The researchers say at the end of the video that they don't intend this hack to become a primary method of gameplay, but rather an additional option that will appeal to kids told to go outside or who are in physical therapy. I don't know - I think a whole lot of people want to see full, natural control over WoW come to the Kinect.
After a long snowstorm kept my wife and I locked in the house several years ago, with nothing to do but play World of Warcraft together, I still have muscle memories of my feet pattering through ravines, down hills and along roads. They return to me every time I visit the park with my dogs.
That mixing of the real and the virtual is only going to become harder to separate when we can control all our virtual activities with our full physical bodies. And some people are going to love it. Others will no doubt raise concerns about the dissolving of the line between the body and the avatar, the self and news feed, etc. Like most tools, such technology will likely raise possibilities both banal and devine.