Microsoft has released version 1.0 of its Kinect for Windows SDK and runtime, expanding the Kinect's possibilities beyond the Xbox 360.
made the version 1.0 of its Kinect for Windows software development kit and runtime
available for download.
towards the future, we are planning on releasing updates to our SDK and runtime
2-3 times per year," Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows, wrote
in a Jan. 31 posting on the Kinect for Windows Blog. "We are continuing
to invest in programs like our Testing and Adoption Program and the Kinect
Accelerator, and will work to create new programs in the future."
Kinect team has tweaked the SDK and runtime since the Beta 2 released in late
2011. Improvements include support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into
the same PC, an ability to see objects as close as 40 cm from the front of the
Kinect device, a variety of API updates and enhancements, and the latest
Microsoft Speech components.
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
made the Nintendo Wii-and its own unconventional controllers-such an enormous
success. Within weeks of the device's November 2010 release, it had sold
millions of units.
inevitably, 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
began to appear on YouTube, demonstrating what the next-generation hardware
could do aside from virtual fencing and dancing: tethering Kinect's motion
controls to a robot, in one example.
not approve at first. "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."
company then 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. "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 input from the sensor," he told the radio
From that point
on, Microsoft highlighted its apparent intention to offer Kinect's technology
to academic institutions and businesses. Near the end of 2011, it announced a
Kinect for Windows commercial program for early in 2012, designed (in the words
of a company press release) as a way to give "global businesses the tools they
need to develop applications on Kinect that could take their businesses and
industries in new directions." Some 200 businesses, including 25 companies in
the Fortune 500, have apparently been involved in a global pilot program
designed to explore the technology's commercial ramifications.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.