The Windows-specific version of the Kinect sensor is being put out to pasture, but it's not necessarily a bad thing for the company's plans to popularize gesture-based computing.
Microsoft has stopped producing Kinect for Windows v2 hardware, the PC edition of the Xbox One's 3D motion-sensing peripheral, the company said in an April 2 announcement. The move follows the company's earlier announcement that it is phasing out the original Kinect for Windows sensor, based on the popular Xbox 360 add-on, this year.
The company started selling Kinect for Windows v2 on July 15, 2014, to help spur the development of natural interface apps using the upgraded hardware. Compared with its predecessor, it features a full HD (1080p) camera, an expanded field of view and more potent processing capabilities for improved skeleton tracking, which translates into higher-fidelity motion capture and more accurate on-screen results.
Apart from some minor cosmetic alterations and the use of different connectors, the Xbox One and Windows versions of the device are functionally identical. In October 2014, the company released a $49.99 USB 3.0 adapter kit that allows owners of the Kinect for Xbox One to connect it to their PCs, a decision that ultimately rendered the Windows version redundant.
"In an effort to simplify and create consistency for developers, we are focusing on that experience and, starting today, we will no longer be producing Kinect for Windows v2 sensors," said Microsoft's Michael Fry, senior technology evangelist for Kinect for Windows, in a statement.
In terms of cost, interested buyers will notice that little has changed. Combined, Kinect for Xbox One ($149.99) and the Kinect Adapter for Windows ($49.99) add up to practically the same price as Kinect for Windows v2 ($199).
Standardizing around the Kinect for Xbox One also helps streamline Microsoft's hardware distribution operations given the sensor's popularity, suggested Fry. "Over the past several months, we have seen unprecedented demand from the developer community for Kinect sensors and have experienced difficulty keeping up with requests in some markets," he stated.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's decision to release the Kinect Adapter for Windows has been paying off. Fry reported to having "seen the developer community respond positively to being able to use the Kinect for Xbox One sensor for Kinect for Windows app development, and we are happy to report that Kinect for Xbox One sensors and Kinect Adapter for Windows units are now readily available in most markets."
Developers and current Kinect for Windows v2 owners can continue using the device into the foreseeable future, said Fry.
"Microsoft remains committed to Kinect as a development platform on both Xbox and Windows," he assured. "So while we are no longer producing the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor, we want to assure developers who are currently using it that our support for the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor remains unchanged and that they can continue to use their sensor."