Kinect meets ‘World of Warcraft’

The Kinect game controller may have been created to play Xbox 360 titles only, but a group of university researchers are working on software that lets gamers use the motion sensing device to play computer games like “World of Warcraft.”

The folks at USC’s Institute for Creative Techologies are working on software called FAAST — Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit — which intigrates full-body controls into off-the-shelf computer games (the kind of games you usually control with a keyboard and mouse).

They have posted a demonstration of their project on YouTube, showing off how they were able to play “World of Warcraft” using Kinect.

“Since these games would not normally support motion sensing devices, FAAST emulates keyboard input triggered by body posture and specific gestures,” the researchers write. “These controls can be dynamically configured for different applications and games.” (In addition to a Kinect sensor, players can also use a PrimeSensor camera, according to the researchers.)

The researchers go on to say that this tool could be used not only for entertainment purposes, but to help injured people … and to help overweight “WoW” players.

“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 — the area of childhood obesity and diabetes,” says the institute’s Skip Rizzo. “You’ve got a kid who’s interacting with ‘World of Warcraft’ for six hours a day, perhaps a parent could step in and say, ‘Hey, for one hour of that time you’re gonna do it with the Kinect or the PrimeSense camera, and you gotta exercise while you’re doing it.’

“Instead of using a thumb controller to move your character you’ve got to run in place, you’ve got to use arm gestures and you actually build into the application a way for a kid to physically engage with digital content.”

All of which reminds us: Yeah, that’s pretty much what Nintendo already did with the Wii.

Nevertheless, adding motion controls to computer games (the last bastion of sit-on-your-arse gaming) is nifty stuff … though I’m not so sure I’d want to play “WoW” with them.

The folks at the Institute for Creative Technologies say they are currently preparing FAAST for an open-source release which can be downloaded here.

Meanwhile, “World of Warcraft” fans, what do you think? You interested in playing “WoW” on your feet?