Kinect for PCs — grab it now!

Kinect, the hands-free gaming device originally exclusive to the Xbox 360, is now available for Windows.

At CES, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that Kinect for Windows would ship on February 1. Today, version 1.0 of the runtime and SDK are ready for download.

Eager users can grab Kinect for Windows at a price of US$249, or US$149 for qualifying educational customers.

Many improvements have been made since beta 2 of the SDK launched last year. These include:

  • Four Kinect sensors can now be plugged into the same computer. The mind boggles at this possibility, owing to the fact that Kinect already has a fairly high level of movement recognition. The new SDK also throws in “improved skeletal tracking” with developers now able to pick and choose which user is being tracked by the sensors.
  • Near mode – the camera can now recognise objects as close as 40-centimetres. Macro shots on the Kinect? Hell yeah.
  • A bump in its speech recognition, known as the “Far-talk” acoustic model. This, combined with the newest Microsoft Speech component, could produce a voice recognition system with the power to decipher multiple users’ speech patterns.
  • Kinect Explorer, the “Swiss Army Knife” part of the SDK. With Kinect Explorer, even the finest motions and gadgetry inside Kinect can be fiddled with. This includes motor controls, skeletal tracking, audio and sound angles, depth and skeletal tracking.

Craig Eisler, GM of Kinect for Windows, plans on delivering regular updates for the SDK. “Looking towards the future, we are planning on releasing updates to our SDK and runtime 2-3 times per year – in fact, the team is already hard at work on the next release.”

A full list of changes to the SDK, as well as future plans for the commercial and private viability of the Kinect, can be found here.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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