Hand Drawn – A Kinect hack

Hand Drawn – A Kinect hack from Moving Brands® on Vimeo.


A few weeks back, we journeyed down to sunny Brighton for what is hopefully the first of many Mini Maker Faires to be hosted there. The reason for the trip was to showcase a project that we’ve been working on. Hand Drawn is an internal Moving Brands project, devised as a response to the creation of an ad-hoc, community-driven SDK for Microsoft’s Kinect camera, that appeared shortly after it’s launch. We’ve written about the Kinect before, and how it’s begnning to affect the niche landscape of gesture control, but sometimes captured thoughts need to take different forms.

The software functions as a tool for building a collaborative typeface, dynamically capturing a user’s gesture – a hand traced through the air – and adding it to a pool of data. A live video feed offers a frame to compose a character, while a second viewport shows the 3-dimensional ‘volume’ of the last captured character. Characters can be cycled through, while a virtual typesetter’s tray highlights both progress and popularity as it fills up with the composite letterforms.

Over time, and as more and more marks are captured by it’s users, the typeface evolves, incorporating both flaws and common traits from those rolling up their sleeves and using Hand Drawn. No ligatures, serifs or elaborate quirks; the typeface that is beginning to emerge is the average of peoples’ perceptions as to how a character of Western type appears to them.

First and foremost however, it is a link in a process – a means of collecting 3-dimensional data acquired through gestural input and a tool with which to explore how gestures can be used to control an interface. In the latter, first time users of the application frequently rely on gestures that are more familiar: the screen is poked and swiped and hands in the air attempt to coax a double-click from an invisible mouse controller. In the former, the data acquired can become many things: print, animation, or models of the captured gestures, for example.

We see Hand Drawn as our contribution to a fledgling scene of hacks, a discussion point and an early testbed for what works and what fails within the realm of gestural interfaces. In terms of output however, so far Hand Drawn has spawned a little film (shown above, but also viewable over on our Vimeo page) a .ttf font file (that can be downloaded here) and, assuming the postman arrives on time tomorrow, a collection of rapid-prototyped characters.

Our next post around this will be on how we built the project on open source Software and libraries. Stay tuned!