Microsoft has released its Kinect for Windows SDK beta, opening its hands-free gaming technology to developers and researchers.
Microsoft has released its Kinect for Windows SDK beta,
bringing the motion-control and voice-recognition technology to developers and
Microsoft had originally designed the Kinect controller as a
way to play Xbox 360 games via gesture and spoken words, in the process
targeting those same casual gamers who had made the Nintendo Wii-and its own
unconventional controllers-such an enormous success. In terms of sales, the
company succeeded, with millions of customers snatching up a Kinect unit within
weeks of its November 2010 release.
However, tech pros soon found a way to hack the Kinect's 3D
camera, which translates the movements of a user's body to a digital avatar.
Videos soon became to appear on YouTube, demonstrating what the next-generation
hardware could do aside from virtual fencing and dancing: painting 3D images in
mid-air, say, or tethering Kinect's motion controls to a robot.
At first, Microsoft did not approve. "Microsoft does not
condone the modification of its products," a company spokesperson told CNET Nov. 4
, 2010. "Microsoft will continue to make advances
in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product
safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant."
However, before Microsoft's legal counsel could begin
printing off those cease-and-desist letters, the company executed an abrupt
about-face. In a Nov. 19, 2010, interview
with NPR, Alex Kipman, Microsoft's director of incubation for Xbox, insisted
that Kinect had not been hacked, and that the company had deliberately left the
device open to modification.
"Hacking would mean that someone got to our algorithms that
sit on the side of the Xbox and was able to actually use them, which hasn't
happened," Kipman told the radio show, according
to a transcript
. "What has happened is someone wrote an open-source driver
for PCs that essentially opens the USB connection, which we didn't protect by
design, and reads the inputs from the sensor."
From that point on, Microsoft highlighted its apparent
intention to offer Kinect's technology to academic institutions, with an eye
toward boosting the latter's research. According
to Microsoft Research
, system requirements for those downloading the SDK
beta include a Kinect for Xbox 360 sensor; a computer with a dual-core,
2.66-GHz (or faster) processor; a Windows 7-compatible graphics card with
support for DirectX 9.0c capabilities, and 2GB of RAM.
Required software includes Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010
Express (or other 2010 edition), and Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0.
Microsoft itself intends to use advances in 3D sensing for
products beyond gaming. In late 2010, the company acquired Canesta, a maker of
3D-image sensor chips and camera modules that can be embedded in a variety of
consumer products, including laptops and vehicle dashboards.
"There is little question that within the next decade we
will see natural user interfaces become common for input across all devices,"
Jim Spare, president and CEO of Canesta, wrote in an Oct. 29, 2010, statement posted on the startup's Website.
"With Microsoft's breadth of scope from enterprise to consumer products, market
presence, and commitment to NUI, we are confident that our technology will see
wide adoption across many applications that embody the full potential of the
By the beginning of March, some 10 million Kinect units had