Video game developers are desperately trying to figure out how to use the Xbox Kinect peripheral in a way that isn’t utterly laughable. Or, in a way that just isn’t Kinect Star Wars, at least.

At the same time however, the hacking, modding and otherwise technologically savvy community are creating ingenious applications for Microsoft’s motion-sensing device. We’ve seen 3D video capture, Kinect-controlled robots and 3D statues that can be thrown straight into Minecraft. All pretty impressive in their own right.

No doubt feeling a little left out, one of Microsoft’s own research teams has come up with a way of using Kinect as a completely affordable 3D scanner.

Shot in the library of The Royal Society in London, the video below shows them creating a 3D digital model of Sir Isaac Newton’s death mask. That’s right, we’re talking about the English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, alchemist and theologian who discovered gravity. And by death mask, we really do mean the mask directly cast from Newton’s face when he died.

Shahram Izadi from Microsoft takes us through the process, which involves some experimental software, moving the camera around the mask (rather than a stationary position, which the Kinect is normally used in with the Xbox 360) and then stitching together the peripheral’s multiple renders to create a smooth, digital interpretation.

At the moment this is just a research project, but there are no doubt plenty of ways for it to be adapted and developed for further use. Even as it stands, we think a potentially ever-lasting render of Sir Isaac Newton’s face is pretty neat.

Oh, and stick around until the end to see all of Professor Martyn Poliakoff’s body virtualised too. We’re loving his outlandish hair-do.

Image Credit: Creative Tools