I figured that the wave of awesome-stuff-made-with-hacked-Kinects had crested by now, but the hits keep on coming. The latest: "Soak and Dye in Light," an installation by Korean "creative computing" collective Everyware that uses the Kinect to turn a giant spandex screen into a digital canvas you can paint with your fingers.
"Soak" uses the Kinect to "grab the topology data of the screen in real-time, which is then translated into a 3-dimensional deformation structure," designers Hyunwoo Bang and Yunsil Heo tell Co.Design. In other words, when you press your fingertip into the stretchy membrane, the Kinect can sense the change in depth of the screen, which it then sends to Bang and Heo’s software, which generates a visual simulation of ink gently spreading out from the spot you touched. And that, not the 3-D-sensing, was the hard part, according to Bang and Heo: "What was challenging to us in this project was simulating the dying process based on real-world physics," they say. "The simulation itself includes complex phenomena like capillary smear through the pulps with diffusion and delivery of pigments. What was more, the simulation had to be updated [at HD resolution] at least 60 times per second for its real-time application."
The designers accomplished that with some heavy-duty computing firepower involving cellular automata and GPGPUs, but the results look as direct and realistic as dropping watercolors into canvas. Bang and Heo plan to fabricate garments digitally printed with patterns created by interacting with Soak. "The light-dying can be performed by anyone or anything, including kids playing with the sheet, gale blowing from an open window, dancers with passionate motions or the delicate touches and pushes of professional fashion designers," they say. Call it haute couture Hypercolor for the 21st century.