Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

Summary:Microsoft is working on new Kinect sensor hardware tailored to work with the commercially-licensed version of Kinect for Windows PC development kit, which is due to launch in early 2012.

Microsoft is readying a new type of Kinect hardware to work with Windows that will build on the current Kinect for Xbox 360 sensor.

That revelation is from a November 22 post on the "Kinect for Windows blog" from Craig Eisler, the General Manager for Kinect for Windows (and a former leader in the Zune and Mac business units at Microsoft).

"(W)e have optimized certain hardware components and made firmware adjustments which better enable PC-centric scenarios. Coupled with the numerous upgrades and improvements our team is making to the Software Development Kit (SDK) and runtime, the new hardware delivers features and functionality that Windows developers and Microsoft customers have been asking for," blogged Eisler.

Other hardware changes for the coming new Kinect hardware include a shortened USB cable and the inclusion of a "small dongle" to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals, Eisler said. There also will be new firmware delivered with the hardware that will enable the Kinect depth camera to see objects that are "as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device" without sacrificing accuracy or precision. This new "near mode" will facilitate the development of new "close up" applications which will be different from the living-room-distance ones that are tailored for the Kinect for Xbox.

Eisler also said that those working with the Kinect for Windows commercial license will get "ongoing updates in both speech and human tracking (where Microsoft has been investing for years)."

Microsoft officials said earlier this fall that the commercial licensing program for Kinect for WIndows will launch in early 2012. (I wouldn't be surprised to see some kind of announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.) More than 200 pilot customers are experimenting with potential business scenarios. Currently, the Kinect for Windows SDK is only available for hobbyist/noncommercial licensing.

It sounds as if the new Kinect hardware will launch at the same time as the commercial Kinect for Windows SDK, from today's blog post.

I'd say it's safe to assume from the limited information in today's post that the new Kinect PC hardware will be an external peripheral (like the Kinect sensor for Xbox), and that Kinect sensors won't be integrated inside Windows 8 PCs -- a scenario envisioned by more than one of my readers. Do you agree? When do you think Kinect sensors will be just another component of Windows PCs and tablets"

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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