- Kinect sensors can locate several commonly misplaced items, including keys
- It can track the movement of objects by recognising their shape
- Even if system cannot find object – if it is stuck behind couch for example – it will reveal where it was last seen
PUBLISHED: 05:18 EST, 11 June 2012 | UPDATED: 09:24 EST, 11 June 2012
But hours spent rummaging through pockets and digging down the back of the couch cushions could be a thing of the past, thanks to a sophisticated new tracking tool fitted to an Xbox game console.
Described as being ‘like Google for the home’, the system allows people to search for the location of lost items on a special computer programme connected to a series of sensors.
The clever gadget can not only monitor commonly misplaced items like mobile phones and wallets, it can also keep track of less frequently-used possessions like a favourite toy or Rubik’s cube.
‘Imagine if we had a system that could keep account of all the objects that we interact with in our daily lives,’ BBC Online reported the researchers Shahriar Nirjon and John Stankovic, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, as saying.
HOW TRACKING WORKS
Instead of tracking all the owner’s objects in real-time, which would use up too much computer power, the system relies on the theory that objects only change locations when people move them around.
It therefore tracks the movement of human figures, and monitors objects that have changed location in their vicinity.
Each object is compared to the programme’s database for the house and either recognised or added to the list.
The smart programme can improve its accuracy by learning from previous data.
Algorithms help it remember the appearance of objects and where they are likely to be found, while it has been built with logic to know that an object inside a bath is unlikely to be a coffee cup.
‘By keeping track of the locations of the objects, we could build a smart search engine for our home that could answer queries like – where are my eye glasses, or my TV-remote, or my wallet?’
Called Kinsight, the system uses a depth-based camera system to track household objects are they are moved around a building.
It uses several of Microsoft’s Kinect sensors – the devise that lets you wave instructions to an Xbox – attached to a computer running the team’s software.
The system is said to be many times cheaper that current tracking solutions based on radiofrequency identification chips.
It can apparently locate fist-sized objects with an accuracy of 13 centimetres.
Even when the programme does lose track of an item, it can still remember where it was last seen.
At the moment, the experimental system can only see objects up to 11 feet (3.4 metres) away, but the researchers say that as Microsoft upgrades its Kinect sensors in future, the programme’s accuracy will also improve.
The researchers revealed details of their system at a recent conference in China and were subsequently reported in New Scientist.