From: John Stone (
Date: Wed Mar 09 2011 - 10:58:04 CST

  There's a group on campus here at UIUC that has been doing interesting
things with range cameras (the Kinect is one such example). One of the
most interesting things they did so far was to superimpose the user
into the VMD scene, so that the user could pierce the atoms with their
hand, and otherwise see themselves projected into the 'space' of
the molecule. This was used in a projector environment like you
describe and was a small test program they wrote about 9 months ago.

Subsequent to that, I wrote them some code to let them get the
VMD Z-buffer data so that one could composite the range image and
the VMD visualization more perfectly. It was interesting to play
around with, but to make "serious" use of it would require much more work.

Probably the most interesting usage from my point of view would be to
use this setup for the purposes of making video presentations where
the speaker is "in the molecule" and can walk around within the
3-D world. Beyond that, I'm not sure that the Kinect offers anything
that we couldn't already do as well or better with other types of
3-D tracking devices such as the magnetic trackers typically used in
the CAVE and similar environments (Polhemus, Flock-of-birds, etc).
The main advantage of the Kinect and similar range cameras is that they
are a lot cheaper than the 6DOF magnetic tracking systems...

In terms of interacting with the VMD scene for a more normal use case,
I think that the Android cell phone client we've been prototyping may
be more usable for everyday meetings and the like, and particularly for
multiple simultaneous users.

If people have ideas on how they'd like to use things like the Kinect
or the Android cell phone client to control VMD, we'd love to hear
about them. Although we've been looking into these things in our free
time, we definitely haven't thought of everything...

  John Stone

On Wed, Mar 09, 2011 at 12:30:16PM +0100, Olaf Lenz wrote:
> Hi everybody!
> During the last months, there has been considerable hubbub about
> Microsoft's Kinect 3D camera and the possibilities of it.
> I think that it should be a great input device if you use a projector to
> visualize molecules, as it would allow real 3D manipulation of the scene.
> Did anybody already think about how one could use it to control VMD? Or
> did anybody already start working on it? If so, I would be very
> interested. Otherwise, I could possibly start with it...
> Olaf
> --
> Dr. rer. nat. Olaf Lenz
> Institut für Computerphysik, Pfaffenwaldring 27, D-70569 Stuttgart
> Phone: +49-711-685-63607

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