ALERT REU student finds new use for gaming hardware

Ryan Miller, a Northeastern Mechanical Engineering Student participating in this year’s REU Program, has been working on a project that repurposes the Kinect for Xbox 360, a mass-market video game device, as a 3D scanner for homeland security sensing. This surprisingly powerful $150 device, maps rooms, provides depth information, and tracks users in real time to read body motion.

Miller is reconfiguring the Kinect under the guidance of Professor Carey Rappaport, the ALERT deputy director, at the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) Testbed facility at Northeastern. Miller has been working with the Kinect sensor to determine depth information and create point clouds which images of objects of interest with accuracy of 5 millimeters. His next step is to recreate the images in a form that can be manipulated and create whole 3D images, then integrated into the existing AIT facility sensors as a cheap, effective modeling technology to create 3D mesh grids of the object surface.

The REU program – ALERT’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program – selects promising undergraduate students to work at ALERT facilities on research projects related to explosives detection over the summer.

“I have always been excited by the REU program. I get great work out of smart students, who are motivated, creative, hard working, and very quick learners,” says Professor Rappaport, who is working with three REU summer students, including Miller, in 2012.

“Ryan’s project in particular is perfectly suited for an underclassman who knows his way around the internet and the Xbox system. It is precisely the type of research that should be done in a university: outside the box, inexpensive, dual-use, and novel.”

The ALERT REU summer program is a ten-week program open to science or engineering undergraduate students. Students accepted to the program receive a $4500 stipend and housing is provided. Women, minority students, and persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply. To learn more about the ALERT REU program, please visit:

Ryan Miller, 2012 REU student

“The REU program has given me the opportunity to explore what I can do as a research engineer and work in fields different than my major. I get to experience a lot of the things electrical and computer engineers do that I probably never would have come across before and it has even made me consider a minor or dual major with electrical engineering.”

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