Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

    "...integrated inside Windows 8 PCs " I can see that happening eventually but the Kinect hardware may go though a lot of changes before its ready for prime time. They need to increase the resolution and to do that I hear they also need a cable that is faster than usb 2.0. Increasing the res will make it easier for developers to detect finger gestures, subtle facial movements, and the stuff that will really make PCs more interesting to interact with.

    So no, I dont want integrated Kinect until v2.0, and this just seems to be a copy of the Xbox version.
    • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

      @RyanGadz makes sense.
    • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs


      USB 3.0 is here. And a Kinect sensor built into a laptop or all-in-one could be directly cabled into the motherboard with an even faster cable.

      Once the components can be miniturized enough, integrated Kinect is for certain, but perhaps not until 2014-2017.
  • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

    I think this is awesome news for .Net Developers. It opens up a whole new avenue for creating great user experiences, And of course you can get closer to those Minority Report type of apps :)
  • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

    If MS licenses the Kinect PC hardware, some manufacture could incorporate the technology inside an all-in-one desktop PC design. Finally, the Redmond Sleeping Giant appears ready to awaken from it's decade long slumber and not a moment too soon. (Win 8 tablets, Kinect enabled desktop PCs - think of the multi "touch" gestures, Win 8 phones and revised X Box hardware. What a nice prospect to look forward to.)
  • Integrate!

    I can see the need for an external sensor. But in order to use the technology in a tablet or phone, they really should consider integrating it into Windows 8 PCs.
    • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

      @rjohn05 The funny part is Kinect drivers are already present in the Linux kernel. :-)
  • Can they make it small enough to fit in a laptop?

    And sensitive enough to work from just a few feet away, as opposed to requiring a whole room?

    We need to be able to "Kinect" from our Acela seats.
    x I'm tc
    • 50 cm is less than 20 inches. Good enough for desktop monitors and almost

      enough for mobile. But yes for laptop/netbook/ultrabook/tablet/phone it would need to be built in to be serious.
      Johnny Vegas
  • Kinect distribution

    How will the first release of kinnect be done. Will it be through the developers network or perhaps through the Microsoft web-store? Will the driver be distributed in uncompiled code as well as the compiled drivers.
  • Seems to me

    that this is an early attempt for Microsoft to appease customers who it knows are going to be pissed off by the new metro interface, which looks like its designed for touch interfaces. The problem is, it won't necessarily be a good substitution. Sure, it will let you flip through metro to get to new tiles, but will it be able to tell which one your pointing at? I'm thinking that if you're having to prepare for upset customers this far in advance, then maybe you need to be re-thinking your development strategy.
    • XBox Kinect

      Guess you don't have an XBox with Kinect. It's pretty accurate for tracking and selecting items, you get this little hand (like the mouse pointer) to help locate where you are on the screen and to select an item you just hover for a few seconds while a little circle completes a trip around your hand. Try it's fun.
  • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

    The whole problem with accuracy for Kinect on Xbox has been due to the USB bandwidth and not the sensors that are capable of more accuracy. So, if you look where changes in technology are headed in the new few years the the current Xbox 306 does not take advantage of, I see a new console being needed to take advantage of them:

    * Theater quality 3D with theater low cost glasses.
    * Blue-Ray (to enable 3D movies and games with Xbox.
    * USB 3.0 to improve speeds and bandwith for Kinect sensor information.
    * wireless video.
    * App stores.
    * DVR to download movies (hulu and netflix before watching them; not all of us can get good highspeed internet to stream in realtime) and record TV shows.
    * Faster CPU's and GPU's.
    * wireless keyboard and maybe a mouse.
    If MS can put this tech together into a new Xbox console at a low enough cost, they would own the home.
    • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

      @rmark@... totally agree, a more PC style system would really make use of the cheap hardware. Put windows 8 on it - another blog/ comment on ZDnet has already suggested that is going to happen for the next version. I know they will allow you to play xbox games on windows 8, or is that just more rumours? :)

      Kinect on the desktop is a step backwards for everyday use, but that is not the point. More for when you need to operate a PC without a keyboard and mouse, like when your hands are dirty (mechanic/ surgeon) or in a shop type experience. This isnt going to change the way we use PCs, bar maybe the face recognition which will actually save us all about 52 seconds a day from typing passwords in, minus the several minutes it takes to align your face on the screen lol

      Someone will make a great use for kinect somewhere, kinectimals wasn't one of them ;)
  • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

    I just don't think that kinect (or touch) will end up that useful on the typical business desktop - only for certain niche uses. Id rather have the precision of a keyboard and mouse for my work, as do probably the majority of computer users at work. There may be an initial touch and motion "craze" to try to jump start sagging PC sales, but will die off as the impracticality becomes apparent for general productivity.
  • Is'nt Kinect already dying off?

    I've seen a lot of Kinect stuff at discount pricing lately. Especially software titles. Is it dying off already? I have personally never tried it but I have heard that some of the titles were not very good and the device was not as accurate as its advertised.
    • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

      It got a lot of hub-bub a year ago with initial strong sales and then everything went quiet and petered out.

      I guess Microsoft is now expecting everybody to do a little dance in front of their Windows 8 machines in order to generate another boost.

    • Actually the devices are quite accurate

      Sure some of the early titles where a bit lame (they always start out that way) so like any video game, heavilly discounted a year later, but many are quite good, with newer ones being released around the holidays.

      As for the accuracy, it really is pretty dead on, and accuarte as advertised as I've used it and have no complaints.
      William Farrell
  • RE: Microsoft readies new Kinect hardware for Windows PCs

    Actually for some of us this is old news. It was announced October 7, 2011 that the Kinect would be part of the 2012 KOP for FIRST robotics teams along with the SDK. It was also stated Microsoft???s donating 2,500 Kinect sensors to the 2012 FIRST robotics game. The development and building of these robots is not like your typical R&D process since the kids only have a matter of weeks to design, build and program these robots for the competition whose requirements aren't specified until just before the build season starts. The next build season starts Saturday, January 7, 2012. If you're wondering how I know all this I mentor the team my daughters are a member of and my son was when he was in high school. These are our future engineers and there are many teams that could use help.
    Unc Al
  • An Exciting Emerging Technology in the Education Sector

    In the education sector, Kinect technologies have been one of the most exciting developments I've seen in my 20 years as an educator. We have found the Kinect sensor camera to be very accurate and have used Xbox Kinect games such as "Kinect Adventures" in a variety of ways with our students. The exciting part for us has been connecting the Kinect camera directly to a PC and making use of software such as "Kinect2Scratch" by Stephen Howell, that has been specifically developed to allow students to easily create their own Kinect games. We're excited about the changes being made to the Kinect hardware and welcome anything that will make it easier for students and educators to continue to use this engaging and worthwhile tool.