Click here to Skip to main content
15,614,943 members
Articles / Programming Languages / C++
Posted 22 Sep 2011


7 bookmarked

How to Create a Simple Natural Interaction (NI) App.

22 Sep 2011CPOL6 min read
This article contains a short description for a novel NI programmer on how to create a simple “Hello World” gesture-based application. It includes links for environment dependences download pages, code sections with explanations and a sample source code.

This article is in the Product Showcase section for our sponsors at CodeProject. These articles are intended to provide you with information on products and services that we consider useful and of value to developers.


OpenNI is an easy and friendly platform, used for Natural Interaction (NI) programming to create NI Apps.

This article contains a short description for a beginner NI programmer on how to create a simple “Hello World” NI App.

Natural Interaction (NI) refers to a concept whereby Human-device interaction is based on human senses, mostly focused on visual and auditory senses. NITE™ by PrimeSense, is the middleware that perceives the world in 3D based on depth images, and translates these perceptions into meaningful data in the same way that people do. NITE acts as the perception engine that comprehends user interaction within their surroundings and includes both computer vision algorithms.

Getting Started

This chapter provides a simple step-by-step tutorial describing how to initiate a simple NITE project.

1.1 Installing Necessary Software

First thing you’ll need is to download and install the relevant software (SW) needed:

  1. OpenNI
  2. NITE middleware
  3. Sensor related SW (driver)

1.2 Creating an Empty Project that Uses NITE

1.2.1 On Windows

This section describes how to set up your environment for developing your own applications using NITE in Windows.

To Create a Simple Project Using NITE

  1. Create a new Visual Studio project, or open an existing one on which you want to use the NITE.
  2. In the Visual Studio menu, open the Project menu and select Project Properties.
  3. In the C/C++ section, under the General node, locate the Additional Include Directories and add the value of the $(OPEN_NI_INCLUDE) environment variable (the default location is C:\Program files\OpenNI\Include). Also add the value of the $(XN_NITE_INSTALL_PATH) environment variable followed by \Include (the default location is C:\Program files\Prime Sense\NITE\Include).
  4. In the Linker section, under the General node, locate the Additional Library Directories and add the value of the $(OPEN_NI_LIB) environment variable (the default location is C:\Program files\OpenNI\Lib). Also add the value of the $(XN_NITE_INSTALL_PATH) environment variable followed by \Lib (the default location is C:\Program files\Prime Sense\NITE\Lib).
  5. In the Linker section, under the Input node, locate the Additional Dependencies and add openNI.lib and XnVNITE_1_4_1.lib libraries to the field.
  6. In the Debugging section, locate the Working Directory and add $(TargetDir) to the field. This addition will allow you to debug the application.

1.2.2 On Linux

Both a Windows and a Linux platform packages are available for downloading, however, this document only describe how to use the Windows version.

The Actual Code

This section lists the code parts that are required for the Hello World NI App.

2.1 Adding Global Items

You will need to include the OpenNI and NITE header files:

// General headers
#include <stdio.h>
// OpenNI headers
#include <XnOpenNI.h>
// NITE headers
#include <XnVNite.h>

XnOpenNI.h will include any other OpenNI headers that are required. XnVNite.h will include any other NITE headers that are required.

There are two ways to initialize an OpenNI application; (i) explicitly opening the sensor and initiating the streams; or (ii) implicitly by using an XML File. The latter allows more flexibility for the application by enabling a sensor/streams alteration without recompiling the application.

// xml to initialize OpenNI
#define SAMPLE_XML_FILE "../Data/Sample-Tracking.xml"

Now we will add the global variables of the application.

XnBool g_bQuit = false;
XnVSessionManager* g_pSessionManager = NULL;
static XnUInt32 g_nWaveCounter = 1;

Note that the g_pSessionManager object may also be a local variable but for simplicity and easier cleanup, I have decided to use it as a global variable.

2.2 Adding the Callback Functions

Callback Functions, in this case, are used for event handling. Just as you wish that, the application will trigger your handling function upon a mouse button click or a key strike when using a mouse or a keyboard. You will also want that when an NI event happens the application will trigger the NI handling function i.e., Callback Function.

// callback for session start
void XN_CALLBACK_TYPE SessionStart(const XnPoint3D& ptFocusPoint, void* UserCxt)
  printf("Session started. Please wave ...\n");
// Callback for session end
void XN_CALLBACK_TYPE SessionEnd(void* UserCxt)
  printf("Session ended. Please perform focus gesture to start session\n");
// Callback for wave detection
void XN_CALLBACK_TYPE OnWaveCB(void* cxt)
  printf("Hello World - Wave number: %d!\n", g_nWaveCounter);
  if(2 <= g_nWaveCounter)

2.3 Adding the Main Function

In the Main Function, we will initiate the entire OpenNI and NITE component and create an endless loop that will constantly read data from the sensor that NITE will analyze.

2.3.1 OpenNI Entry Point Initialization

First, we will need to initialize OpenNI entry point, which is xn::Context:

xn::Context context;
xn::ScriptNode scriptNode;

// Create context
XnStatus rc = context.InitFromXmlFile(SAMPLE_XML_FILE, scriptNode);
if (rc != XN_STATUS_OK)
  printf("Couldn't initialize: %s\n", xnGetStatusString(rc));
  return 1;

Here we initiate the Context implicitly by using the XML file that is located in the SAMPLE_XML_FILE path. Such a file can be found under the Data folder in the NITE installation folder.

2.3.2 NITE Entry Point Initialization

Second, we will need to initialize NITE entry point, which is XnVSessionManager:

// Create the Session Manager
g_pSessionManager = new XnVSessionManager();
if(NULL == g_pSessionManager)
  printf("Out of memory\n");
rc = g_pSessionManager->Initialize(&context, "Click,Wave", "RaiseHand");
if (rc != XN_STATUS_OK)
  printf("Error: SessionManager: %s\n", xnGetStatusString(rc));
// Register session callbacks
g_pSessionManager->RegisterSession(NULL, &SessionStart, &SessionEnd, NULL);

We initiate the Session Manager with the OpenNI context that can be used for extracting the depth stream and with predefined focus and quick refocus gestures.

Here, in order to start an NI session, you will need to perform either a Wave gesture or a Click gesture.

Once in NI session your hand will be tracked in order to detect other hand points based gestures (controls).

If tracking is lost for some reason e.g., that hand got out of the Field Of View (FOV), the session will continue once a RaiseHand event will happen e.g., the hand returned to the FOV.

The last part of this code piece is registering the Session function callbacks. This will enable you to print to screen when the session started (SessionStart()).  i.e., the user performed a focus gesture. When the session ended (SessionEnd ()), i.e., no hand points are available and the Quick Refocus Grace Period ended (= the default grace period time is 15 seconds).

2.3.3 NITE Components Initialization

Now we will need to create and initialize a NITE tree that will detect a Wave gesture. This is a very simple NITE tree that contains only a single branch: XnVWaveDetector:

// init & register wave control
XnVWaveDetector wd;
wd.RegisterWave(NULL, OnWaveCB);

// Initialization done. Start generating

First, we instantiate a Wave Detector; wd.

Then, we register to Wave callback function that will be called once a wave has been detected. Then we connect the Wave Detector to the Session Manager by adding it to its hand point’s listeners list.
Once the NITE tree is complete, we can call the StartGeneratingAll() function that will start generating the streams.

2.3.4 Updating

Since we constantly want to read data from the sensor and update the NITE components accordingly, we will need to create an endless loop that will constantly read the sensor streams and update the NITE tree with them.

// Main loop
while (!g_bQuit)

3 Running the Application

The file contains a Windows project that has the sample code described in this document.

Providing you have an OpenNI compatible Depth sensor and you’ve followed the instructions listed in this document, you’ll be able to compile and run this sample. You’ll need to connect the sensor to your computer and run the application.

3.1 Operating your First NI App

Once the application is running, stand in front of the sensor at a distance of about 1m to 2.5m.

Perform a Focus gesture to start the session; either a Wave or a Click. In order to perform a Click gesture you will need to stretch your hand forward towards the sensor and then retract your hand a bit backwards in a smooth motion as displayed in the image below.


Figure 3-1: "Click" focus gesture

Once you’ve gained focus, you’ll get a printed notification that indicates it, and you’ll be able to perform a Wave gesture to print the “Hello World” message on your screen. In order to exit the application, you’ll need to perform the Wave gesture twice.

For more information, you may consult the OpenNI Google Group:

You’ll be able to find more interesting applications, many with their source code, on the OpenNI Arena where developers are showcasing their NI Apps


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

Written By
Israel Israel
Lior Cohen is an Application Developer at PrimeSense. In the past two years, he trained and taught programmers from all over the world how to use OpenNI and PrimeSense technologies.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionHow to set up environment for Ubuntu10.10 Pin
shubhampatni6-Dec-11 5:07
shubhampatni6-Dec-11 5:07 
AnswerRe: How to set up environment for Ubuntu10.10 Pin
lc724-Dec-13 3:23
lc724-Dec-13 3:23 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Praise Praise    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.