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“Puppet Parade” Uses Kinect To Create High-Tech Shadow Puppets

Remember when you were five and you first learned how to make a shadow puppet of a dog by holding your palm in front of a flashlight and waggling your pinky finger? Making anything more complicated than that takes a lot of effort. But now an awesome installation by Design I/O called Puppet Parade uses the power of Microsoft Kinect to let kids control a limitless menagerie of colorful digital creatures just by waving their hands in front of a projector.

Using Kinect’s simple gestural interface, kids can make the enormous animated characters swoop, chomp, shriek, and squeal to their hearts’ content. Design I/O based Puppet Parade (which premiered at the 2011 Cinekid festival in Amsterdam) on a prototype they hacked together for fun in one day using Kinect and some open-source software drivers.

Puppet Parade has several layers of interactive puppetry built into it. Two large animated birds can be made to fight and peck at each other, as well as snarf up colorful plants with their beaks, by moving your hand, fingers, and arm as if they are the bird’s head, beak, and neck, respectively. But there are also simpler interactions that younger kids can enjoy just by waggling their arms around, too. (I imagine this lowers the chances of temper tantrums in front of the Kinects–“No, it’s MY TURN NOW!” etc.)

Some Kinect hacks we’ve written about before really get weird with the interface design, which makes Puppet Parade refreshing in its pure-fun simplicity. Sometimes interacting with digital art should be as simple as making shadow puppets. What better way to get the next generation of hackers started?JP