Researchers at MIT have found yet another use for Microsoft's Kinect sensor. They've stripped it down, tacked on a sophisticated laser rangefinder, added wireless functionality, and turned it into a wearable sensor that will automatically map the inside of a building as the wearer moves through it.
The most obvious use of the technology is as a way for Google's mapping team to finally provide detailed schematics for every home in the country. But MIT sees it as more of a valuable tool for emergency responders. In a HAZMAT situation one person could act as a scout, exploring a structure for problems and denoting areas of concern using a manual trigger that lets them leave annotations.
The map of the building's interior is generated on the fly and sent to a remote laptop where it can be studied by other responders who will then know exactly where they need to go. The sensor rig also continually photographs the wearer's surroundings so there are additional visual cues that help others find their way around, but also helps the mapping software automatically recognise an area the wearer's been to before. If the technology ever becomes an actual product let's hope that MIT makes it available to the average consumer, as it also seems like the perfect tool for parent's who need to navigate the ever-changing layout of a teenager's dirty bedroom.