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The Year In Lists: Best Kinect Hacks 2011

What did you enjoy this year? Here are our top picks.
December 16, 2011, 5:38pm

As another year comes to a close, it’s time to look back with a wistful gaze and reminisce about all that 2011 had to offer. It’s fair to say it’s been bountiful, with a smorgasbord of delights coming at us from galleries, computer screens, installations, and catwalks encompassing all sorts of styles across a whole range of disciplines. To honour our favs we’ll be rolling out a list a day all week.


Today is the last list of the week, Best Kinect Hacks. Check out the week’s previous lists on Best Animation/Motion Graphics, Best Music Videos, Most Futuristic Fashions and Best Interactive Installations.

In addition to our curated picks, we want to hear your suggestions, which you can submit via the comments section below, or hit us up on Facebook, Twitter or email: We’ll take your recommendations into account and each category will call out a special “People’s Choice” winner based on the most-recommended work.

Best Kinect Hacks

What a year this piece of hardware’s had. Pretty much ever since its release back in the fall of 2010, the Kinect’s been was getting hacked and finally, after over a year of incredible projects, Microsoft acknowledged that the technology might not just be getting used for games after all. In fact, it seemed as if gaming was the last thing on anyone’s mind. Instead it’s become firmly established as the hack du jour for artists, filmmakers, coders and developers utilizing the gesture controller for a whole variety of interesting things like robotics, installations, projection-mapping, music videos, VJing, virtual graffiti, 3D mapping, and a whole lot more.

Here’s a selection of some of our favorite hacks from the past year.

Kinect Fitting Room

Virtual dressing rooms are surely going to be the way we try on new threads in the future, and this Moscow branch of Topshop brought a little taste of what that world might look like. Courtesy of a hacked Kinect and some augmented reality from

AR Door


, they created a virtual mirror that allowed people to try on clothes in the store without physically getting changed.

Otherworldly Underwater Music Video

Directing duo

Tim & Joe

gave Canadian electro-band

New Look

an underwater makeover for their track "Nap On The Bow." The band members appear to sing to us from the bottom of the ocean, captured in appropriately murky detail using the Kinect. The glitchy effect of the motion sensing makes for a perfect fit for the deep sea aesthetic, bringing to mind the graceful movement of jellyfish and other underwater weirdos.

Dynamic Landscape Generation with Kinect

Timothy Sherman and Paul Miller's project, Magrathea, uses the Kinect lens to scan the surface of a structure, analyze it and then create, in real time, a map from it. For the system they used openFrameworks and openGL to create a texture made up of polygons, which is then covered with a variety of surfaces that reflect the properties of the area—steep hills are turned into rock, while flat surfaces become grassy planes. The landscapes can be generated using all kinds of material: cardboard, cubes, dough and even human bodies.

Body Dysmorphic Live Visuals with Kinect

These visuals accompanying Aphex Twin's music were created with the help of


programming from



Andrew Benson





, and


. Weirdcore used Flight404's 3D point clouds and variations on his bulbous real-time body dysmorphia project and incorporated the Kinect visuals with feeds from QC, MaxMSP/Jitter,



, and v002 and shots of the crowd, for twisted, ghostly 3D face mapping.

Projection Mapping a Human Face

There could be a whole list dedicated to hacked Kinect music videos, such was their volume. But this one was particularly impressive for BELL’s "Chase No Face" directed by

Francisco Zamorano

, with visuals by

Zach Lieberman

, Andy Wallace, and

Michelle Calabro

. The Kinect physically tracked the singer’s face using the


software, while an


projector mapped the visuals onto in real-time.