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Microsoft Kinect leaves Earth’s orbit in experimental satellite docking system

People of the world that balk at Microsoft’s hands-free motion control device and its slow-but-sure domination of the family gaming market take note: Kinect is taking over more than just the racks at Best Buy. Kinect is taking over hospitals; it’s taking over grocery stores; how you browse the Internet; it is helping the blind to see. It is a terrifying Kinect-fueled world, where a tiny array of cameras and microphones stares at you, weighing your every move, judging your every word! It’s leaving the shores of our tiny water-filled globe in the universe and reaching out for the stars! Kinect is going into space.

Not really. Just bits and pieces of it actually. Surrey Satellite Technology Limited and the Univeristy of Surrey announced on Wednesday that it has developed a new system for in-orbit docking called STRaND-2 whose goal is to revolutionize how spacecrafts and other orbital constructs are built. The system itself is an array of two tiny satellites, 30-centimeters (just under 12-inches) in length, that Surrey hopes will eventually be used as the building blocks for new types of spacecrafts. “It may seem far-fetched, but out low cost nanosatellites could dock to build large and sophisticated modular structures such as space telescopes,” said STRaND-2 project lead Dr. Chris Bridges, “Unlike today’s big space missions, these could be reconfigured as mission objectives change, and upgraded in-orbit with the latest available technologies.”

These arrange-able space cubes work because they can scan their local environment and detect objects, obstacles, and abnormalities. The technology that lets them do that is the exact same hardware used in Kinect to figure out just how badly you’re messing up that “Toxic” routine in Dance Central 2.

Surrey’s projects manage to pull off the difficult task of making orbital technology interesting to the average person. Just saying that you’re making nanosatellites probably won’t perk someone’s ears up, but saying you’re making satellites out of an Xbox is pretty eye-grabbing. The first STRaND project, a similar array to the Kinect-powered STRaND-2, is actually powered by smartphone tech. The STRaND projects also happen to make operations in space cheaper and smaller, something badly needed to keep space exploration viable.

So Kinect can help streamline space exploration and development as well as guide doctors in complex medical procedures. Why the heck can’t it be used to make a halfway decent Star Wars game?

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