Microsoft Opens Door to Kinect Apps for Windows

Microsoft sets the stage for motion-sensing Windows apps with a new software development kit and virtual shelf space in its app store.

Microsoft Kinect sensor

Kinect may no longer be a mandatory part of the Xbox One experience, but Microsoft still has high hopes for the motion controller.

"Our Windows SDK 2.0 is now available for the Kinect v2 sensors, and developers can commercially deploy Kinect apps in the Windows Store for the first time," announced Alex Kipman, a technical fellow in the Microsoft's Operating Systems Group, in an Oct. 22 blog post. Microsoft began shipping Kinect v2 sensors for Windows, along with a preview of the software development kit (SDK), in June.

Owners of the Xbox One version of the Kinect who don't want to fork over $200 for a Windows-compatible sensor now have another option. "We are introducing a $49.99 (USD) adapter kit that enables you to take the Kinect for Xbox One you already own and attach it to Windows PCs and tablets," said Kipman.

The USB 3.0 adapter links Xbox One Kinects to Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 systems. Purchasing the adapter and an Xbox One version of the Kinect costs the same as a Kinect v2 for Windows. The Kinect Adapter for Windows is available now "in over two dozen countries and regions." The device will roll out to a total of 41 regions in the coming weeks, he added.

Apart from different connectors and a few cosmetic changes, both versions are essentially the same device. "With the adapter, all Kinect v2 sensors—Kinect for Windows v2 and Kinect for Xbox One—perform identically," he asserted.

The SDK includes more than 200 updates and enhancements since Microsoft released the public preview. They include "enhancements to Visual Gesture Builder, Kinect Studio and Kinect Fusion," explained Kipman. In addition, Microsoft imposes "no fees for runtime licenses of commercial applications developed with the SDK."

Microsoft has also opened up the Windows Store app marketplace to Kinect software. "For the first time, you can commercially deploy Kinect apps in the Windows Store," said Kipman. "Access to the Windows Store opens a whole new marketplace for business and consumer experiences."

A smattering of free motion-sensing apps have already hit the Windows Store. They include the developer-centric Kinect Evolution app and YAKiT, which creates animated videos out of still photos. Microsoft's 3D printer-friendly app, appropriately dubbed 3D Builder, has been updated to support Kinect's 3D scanning capabilities.

Kinect, already a hit with hobbyists, is gaining traction in the business world, said Kipman. "We are seeing a lot of interest from businesses to bring interactive experiences to their customers that allow people to interact naturally with technology by simply gesturing and speaking."

San Diego-based Reflexion Health leverages Kinect in its physical therapy practice. Similarly, Care Innovations, an Intel and GE joint venture, is using the technology to provide in-home physical therapy for seniors, reported Kipman. "I'm excited about the impact Kinect can have on society in areas like health care, retail, entertainment, and education and can't wait to see what you do with it next," 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...