And the software they used to pull it off, known as Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit or FAAST, is downloadable for free online.
FAAST, built by USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, allows users to play computer games with a Kinect motion-sensor camera by translating body movements into the inputs that would otherwise be triggered a keyboard and mouse, or a gaming controller with joysticks and buttons.
A video on YouTube from the researchers shows off FAAST controlling World of Warcraft, a hugely popular computer game in which players control a customized character in a land of witches and knights and gnomes.
In the video, Skip Rizzo, one of the researchers, touts the software and motion-sensing camera such as the Kinect as a tool toward healthier lives for those who spend hours a day playing computer games.
"I think the real compelling aspect of all this is that you can now take off-the-shelf games, content that's already built, and emulate the keyboard actions with body movement," Rizzo said in the video. "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."
"You got a kid who’s interacting with World of Warcraft for six hours a day, perhaps a parent can step in and say, 'Hey, alright, for one hour of that time, you're going to do it with the Kinect ... and you're got to exercise while you're doing it,'" he said.
"So, 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 for a way for a kid to physically engage with digital content like a game."
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Video: World of Warcraft being controlled by Microsoft Kinect. Credit: Evan A. Suma of USC's Institute for Creative Technologies via YouTube
Image: World of Warcraft Cataclysm expansion box for the World of Warcraft computer game. Credit: Blizzard Entertainment