Web GIS in practice X: a Microsoft Kinect natural user interface for Google Earth navigation

Maged N Kamel Boulos, Bryan J Blanchard, Cory Walker, Julio Montero, Aalap Tripathy, Ricardo Gutierrez-Osuna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


This paper covers the use of depth sensors such as Microsoft Kinect and ASUS Xtion to provide a natural user interface (NUI) for controlling 3-D (three-dimensional) virtual globes such as Google Earth (including its Street View mode), Bing Maps 3D, and NASA World Wind. The paper introduces the Microsoft Kinect device, briefly describing how it works (the underlying technology by PrimeSense), as well as its market uptake and application potential beyond its original intended purpose as a home entertainment and video game controller. The different software drivers available for connecting the Kinect device to a PC (Personal Computer) are also covered, and their comparative pros and cons briefly discussed. We survey a number of approaches and application examples for controlling 3-D virtual globes using the Kinect sensor, then describe Kinoogle, a Kinect interface for natural interaction with Google Earth, developed by students at Texas A&M University. Readers interested in trying out the application on their own hardware can download a Zip archive (included with the manuscript as additional files 1, 2, &3) that contains a 'Kinnogle installation package for Windows PCs'. Finally, we discuss some usability aspects of Kinoogle and similar NUIs for controlling 3-D virtual globes (including possible future improvements), and propose a number of unique, practical 'use scenarios' where such NUIs could prove useful in navigating a 3-D virtual globe, compared to conventional mouse/3-D mouse and keyboard-based interfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2011


  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Internet
  • Software


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