Kinect for Windows v2 Gets Down to Business

It's no game. At the Build conference, Microsoft makes the business argument for developing with the company's upgraded sensor technology.

Microsoft is gearing up for the release of Kinect for Windows v2, an updated version of the motion-sensing peripheral that ships with the Xbox One. At the Build developer conference in San Francisco, the company demonstrated some of the capabilities that the new sensor will provide when it launches this summer in a bid to popularize the technology among a wide variety of software coders, not just video game makers.

The original Kinect for the Xbox 360 video game console was a big hit among hardware hackers in 2010. Microsoft, after an initial bout of resistance, later released a compatible version of the add-on for Windows PCs, enabling coders and hardware enthusiasts to develop software and devices that could leverage the relatively low-cost hardware's 3D sensing capabilities.

On Nov. 22, 2013, Microsoft launched the Xbox One, this time bundling a newer, more powerful version of the Kinect with each and every console. Using Build as a backdrop, the software giant is signaling that developers will soon be able to leverage Kinect for Windows v2's new hardware to enable advanced interactive computing experiences.

During an April 2 keynote presentation at Build, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems group, showed how the company plans to build off the momentum provided by original Kinect for Windows. Referring to the response to the device as "pretty phenomenal," he revealed that the SDK had been downloaded more than 1 million times and that the device had attracted "over 400,000 active developers."

The upgraded hardware will enable developers to create more flexible motion and 3D sensing applications. Kinect for Windows v2 features a "1080P camera with an incredibly wide field of view, so you can now build applications where the subject is much closer to the camera or works in a much smaller room."

New software tools will help developers improve human-machine interactions. "The SDK has greatly improved. ... Skeletal tracking, facial tracking, gesture recognition, and really works well in low light." Microsoft envisions Kinect as part of varied ecosystem of sensor-enabled apps. "It's not just games," said Myerson. "We're seeing work done that's incredibly creative," he added before introducing a video that featured Reflexion Health, a company that is using the technology to enable new ways of providing physical therapy and monitoring its results.

The San Diego-based company uses "Kinect for Windows to augment their physical therapy program and give the therapists a powerful, data-driven new tool to help ensure that patients get the maximum benefit from their PT [physical therapy]," said the company in a blog post. Microsoft claims that Reflexion Health was able to easily adapt its software to the new Kinect sensor and SDK.

Highlighting the importance of accuracy in his line of work, Reflexion Health's Mark Barrett, a lead software engineer, described Kinect for Windows v2 as "so much more precise" in the post. While the company's app benefits most from improved skeletal tracking, the upgraded camera offers perks of its own. "You see such a better representation of the patient. … It was jaw-dropping the first time I saw it," he said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...