Playing with physics and a lot more – Gmod + Kinect

I finally got around to trying GMod (Gary’s Mod). This has been around for a while but is now on Steam for Mac and PC with some interesting new features. A good few years back I remember us sitting in a bunker at Wimbledon in some downtime marvelling at the physics engine demo films for Half Life 2 and the Source Engine. Watching wood catch fire, things rolling around, dropping and floating in a high end game engine. Playing with physics is always fun in code or with a toolkit. At the time there wasn’t a toolkit to build with simply, though along came things like Second Life with some basic physic and lots of multiuser features.
It is a while since I have bothered doing anything with my Desktop windows PC other than get Minecraft going for the predlets. However I ordered a windows based Kinect. Having got the xbox one working on the Mac I wanted to do some development with the official Windows SDK. I only had a Vista machine and it turned out I needed to be windows 7 or above so I took the plunge and upgraded to Windows 8. This was moderately straight forward, apart from having to dismantle the machine to find the serial number on the soundcard to find the right driver. I then got the kinect working, downloaded SDK’s and version of development tools. However it was such a mess getting anything to work I started to lose interest!
How can I use the Kinect? Well a quick google and I found that the Gmod was there on Steam and for £5.99 gave me access to a fantastic building toolkit with all the physics and interesting options of the Source Engine. It also mentioned that it now worked with the Kinect. It also works as a multiplayer network. So this is metaverse territory! 🙂
The palette of things you can rez in Gmod is extensive
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Once you rez something like a rusty bath you can spin it around in space with the physics tool.
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If you let go it drops to the floor, with a satisfying physics engine bounce and crash.
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If you want to put a ragdoll physics scientist in the bath you can do that too.
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It is these ragdolls that have an extra context menu on them. If you have a Kinect plugged into your windows machine, and have the right drivers (1.6) then you can then control these ragdoll avatars with your motions. Not only that but you can control more than one at the same time. Lots of scope here for animated dance sequences.
The first time it worked was a magical moment, it blended the initial memories I had of the engine, with the buzz of what we have today to experiment with.
The skeletons of the Source avatars do not seem to be the same resolution as the more detail kinect skeleton so this is not perfect for my Choi Kwang Do attempts to instrument the body, but… they do help try out the kinect. The rest of the things we can build, and that the predlets will build is going to be interesting.
Oh, there is also an amusing “minecraftify” option in Gmod that turns all the textures blocky. So worlds are merging.
I have yet to try using the 360 kinect on the Mac with its version of Gmod but there is certainly a lot of exploring to be done.
Happy Holidays 🙂

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