A team of Swedish researchers is asking Kinect users to use their Kinects as a 3-D scanner to take pictures of various objects for a project known as Kinect@Home. All of those scans will go into a library all Kinects will be able to access, allowing the device to recognize all kinds of different objects. It's obviously valuable; pretty much everything we'd like the Kinect to do could be enhanced by giving it the ability to distinguish between and identify various materials. Only a few days in, Kinect@Home already has nearly 150 scans.
The project is designed for household robots--imagine mounting a Kinect on some kind of wheeled creation, and not only can it see the shapes of objects in a room--it can recognize what they are. "Don't go near the vase!" you could say. And it could understand you! Pretty amazing stuff.