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Full Story: NPR
Last summer, Ken Mankoff shimmied through zero degree water and mud into a small cavern underneath Rieperbreen Glacier in Svalbard, Norway, holding a Microsoft Kinect wrapped inside a waterproof bag.
Using the little toy, originally meant as a motion-sensing device for the Xbox 360 video game console, Mankoff scanned the cave floor in 3D. During the summer, water from lakes on the glacier’s surface had gushed through the channel he was sitting in. The Kinect was going to provide a better understanding of its size and roughness, which could help researchers predict how the ice above would flow toward the sea.
“I’ve always enjoyed repurposing cheap devices, doing things that you’re not supposed to do with them,” said Mankoff, a NASA funded Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz studying ice and ocean interactions. “You know, the hacker ideals.”
He is currently a bit of an evangelist for the Kinect, trying to get scientist interested in using the device, which can record very accurate 3D data in visible and infrared wavelengths.