Microsoft Research and the company's Interactive Entertainment Business unit have been working together to build a software development kit (SDK) for individuals who want to build Windows apps that use the Microsoft Kinect sensor.
On February 21, Microsoft Research announced plans to roll out a version of this SDK for academics and hobbyists some time this spring (possibly in March 2011). The company is also planning to deliver a version that can be used by those seeking to create commercial apps, but has not provided a time frame for delivery for that update.
Microsoft officials said the coming SDK will give users access to "deep Kinect system information such as audio, system application-programming interfaces, and direct control of the Kinect sensor." Even without an official SDK, developers have been creating a variety of Kinect "hacks" since Microsoft rolled out the sensor in the November 2010.
Microsoft officials also have said they expect that the healthcare industry could become a big consumer of Kinect applications in the coming years. Microsoft officials also promised last year a Video Kinect connector to enable Windows Live Messenger and/or Lync 2010 users to take advantage of Kinect at home. I've asked for an update on the delivery of that connector and have been told Microsoft had no comment at this time.
Microsoft made the announcement about the coming Kinect SDK for Windows at a briefing for select press and analysts known as TechForum 2011.
Microsoft also announced at TechForum plans to create a new lab named for former Microsoft researcher Jim Gray. The San Francisco-based facility will be focused on "developing new kinds of computation, based on tactile and motor experiences," according to Forbes. Microsoft Research architect Jaron Lanier is starting the natural-user-interface-centric lab.
I'll be curious to see what happens around the time Windows 8 is released, in terms of the level of support Microsoft provides as part of its client OS for Kinect. From information that leaked a year ago, it seemed that Microsoft was looking to include some basic facial recognition technologies in Windows 8 itself....