It's about time academics applied their brain power to something really useful. Researchers at the University of Southern California have hacked Microsoft's touchie-feelie Kinect camera for the XBox to play the hugely popular World of Warcraft online game. What's even better is that the software they developed to do it—Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit (FAAST)—is downloadable online for free. Seems everyone wants to get their hands on the motion-controlled gadget, which allows player body movement to interact with virtual characters and situations. A porn industry company is already using Kinect for some hands-on pleasure.
While USC's eggheads no doubt enjoy playing World of Warcraft, they also see some very healthy real-world applications. "The compelling aspect of all this is that you can now take off-the-shelf games, content that's already built, and emulate the keyboard actions with body movement," researcher Skip Rizzo tells the Los Angeles Times. "This opens up the doorway for building rehabilitation exercises for people after a stroke or traumatic brain injury—and in an area that's getting a lot of attention, childhood obesity and diabetes." (More World of Warcraft stories.)