I think now is the best possible time to be alive. I really do. Today is so freaking awesome.

I hear folks bemoan the bygone eras, those days when people lived off of the land, were relatively self-sufficient, lived in small, tight communities, had strong family values, etc. In those days we didn’t worry about pollution, obesity, homelessness (in it’s current form), identity theft, etc.

I could make an argument about all the unpleasant threats that technology has made go away. Bears, for example. But, that’s not really why I feel the way I do. I like now because of all the amazing things that are being invented.

In the last two weeks, something called the Xbox Kinect hit the market. Within a few days, hackers had peeled off the security and started writing their own code. It reminds me of when the Wii first came out. I own a Wii. When I bought it 3 years ago, I hadn’t bought or played console games since I was a teenager. I wanted a Wii. Not to play games (not only to play games, anyway). Truth is, there still aren’t that many really fun games for the Wii. But, because it represented a new frontier in technology. It created a space for brilliant people to tinker. Take this guy:

Guess what happened to Johnny Lee after this, he went to work at Microsoft. He helped with the Kinect.

Back in the early Wii days, there were all kinds of cool hacks that people came up with. One group used it to control a robotic arm. I remember seeing Roombas that used it as a remote control. I saw several custom made digital musical instruments that were created.

So, now we are there again. It seems like a really long time ago, but that was about 3 years ago. Three years.

Here are some interesting hacks from the first two weeks.

Head Tracking – same idea as in the Wii video, but no special glasses required

Turn your cat into blobs –

Fat Cat from flight404 on Vimeo.

This Kinect is attached to a robot that created a 3D map of its environment

Control 3D object with bare hands in real space

Kinect Object Manipulation from Dominick D'Aniello on Vimeo.

And Finally, invent Vibranium

The libraries for these projects are all available and open source. If you are interested in looking more at this stuff, check out processing, cinder, and open frameworks. These all have similar goals. I like processing the best. The two who started that project designed the code to be easy to learn for artists looking to use programming as a tool in their art. There are some awesome books out there about that. I can recommend this as an easy read to get an introduction to processing and programming in general, Getting Started with Processing