Microsoft Corp’s movement-recognition Kinect software has morphed from virtual shooter gaming to the real-life challenge of guarding the world’s last Cold War border.
The sensor allowing handsfree play on the Xbox is the basis for a security device now deployed along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea, after being adapted by a South Korean programmer.
The DMZ, 4km wide and 248km long, is a depopulated no-man’s-land of heavily fortified fences that bristles with the landmines and listening posts of two nations that technically remain at war.
As a military buffer zone, it remains an area of profound Cold War hostility, but its manmade isolation has also created an accidental wildlife park recognized as one of the best-preserved habitats on Earth.
The Kinect-based software developed by Saewan Co founder-president Ko Jae-kwan has been taken up by the South Koran military because of its ability to differentiate between human and animal movement.
Ko, 39, yesterday said that his device could detect the sound, movement and direction of any person attempting to cross the DMZ and immediately alert South Korean border guards.
“Existing sensors, which had been in place along the border, were highly efficient, but could not tell the difference between humans and animals, sending wrong signals frequently,” Ko said.
The new sensors have been in place along certain sections of the DMZ since August, he said.
“Such devices are established as part of our project to strengthen surveillance with scientific equipment, but we cannot provide details for security reasons,” a defense ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Despite all the security measures in place along the DMZ, there have been highly publicized incidents of undetected crossings.
Five South Korean generals and nine mid-level officers were removed from their posts or disciplined in 2012 after a defecting North Korean soldier simply walked undetected across the border and knocked on the door of a guard post.
Ko said he planned to update the existing Kinect-based sensors to a version capable of detecting heart rates and reading body temperature, features that Microsoft added to the Xbox One version of the console released last year.
“For its price, the device is very accurate and effective in covering vulnerable areas,” he said.