Microsoft Unveils Kinect for Windows v2 Final Hardware

Microsoft offers a peek at the new look of its follow-up to the popular, hacker-friendly sensor hardware.

Kinect for Windows v2

In a sign that Kinect for Windows v2 is nearing release, Microsoft has published images on its Website of what the final hardware will look like.

At first glance, the new sensor looks very similar to the Kinect that ships with the Xbox One. Microsoft made the controversial decision last year to bundle the Kinect, formerly an optional add-on for the Xbox 360, with the company's newest Xbox console. The device helps the Xbox One provide voice and gesture controls and video conferencing over Skype, among other capabilities.

Observant viewers will be able to spot some differences, however.

"The sensor closely resembles the Kinect for Xbox One, except that it says 'Kinect' on the top panel, and the Xbox Nexus—the stylized green 'x'—has been changed to a simple, more understated power indicator," said the company in a blog post. The Xbox One version has "Xbox" stamped on the top accompanied by its logo.

In addition, connecting Kinect for Windows v2 to a PC "requires a couple other components to work: the hub and the power supply," stated Microsoft. The hub acts as an intermediary between the sensor and a PC via a USB 3.0 connection. A power supply, which supports 100 to 240 volts, provides the sensor and hub with power.

Under the hood, the Windows and Xbox One versions are practically identical, wrote James Ashley, a presentation layer architect at Razorfish Emerging Experiences, in an early look of the device. "What's different between the new Kinect for XBox One and the Kinect for Windows v2? It turns out not a lot," he said.

"So far, it is everything Kinect developers and designers have been hoping for—full HD through the color camera and a much improved depth camera as well as USB 3.0 data throughput," he observed. Once up and running, developers will discover that the new Kinect does a better job of detecting people and their movements.

"Skeleton detection is greatly improved with the new Kinect," stated Ashley. "Not only are more joints now detected, but many of the jitters developers became used to working around are now gone." In addition, it can detect up to six skeletons versus two with the original Kinect. Plus, the new camera, which replaces the first Kinect's Primesense tech, which was acquired by Apple, provides more accurate skeleton detection and "excellent hand detection."

The original Kinect was a hit for Microsoft, among both video gamers and hardware hackers.

Shortly after releasing the Kinect for the Xbox 360 in November 2010, tech enthusiasts hacked the device. The results were several projects that leveraged the device's comparatively low-cost 3D sensing technology, including autonomous robots, 3D real-time scanning and motion-sensing interactive projections.

After quickly reversing its anti-hacking stance on the Kinect, the company released a version for Windows to spur developer interest. Microsoft began shipping Kinect for Windows v2 Developer Preview kits to select developers shortly during the Xbox One launch last November. The company expects to officially launch the product sometime this summer.

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...