Microsoft's partners have begun shipping the PC version of the Kinect motion-sensing interface device, which proved popular in its original Xbox 360 incarnation and could now become a widely used interface for Windows.
Microsoft demonstrated its Kinect motion-sensor for PCs at MIX11 last year. Image credit: Jay Greene/CNET News
On Wednesday, the software giant announced it is shipping Kinect for Windows in the UK, and said it has released the first finalised software development kit (SDK) and runtime for the gesture-control device. Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer revealed the shipping date at CES in January, and the last beta for the SDK and runtime came out three months ago.
The motion-sensor device and its associated developer tools are also available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and the US. Kinect for Windows will sell in the US for $249 (£157), and UK pricing has not yet been announced.
"In the three months since we released Beta 2, we have made many improvements to our SDK and runtime," Kinect for Windows general manager Craig Eisler wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
Kinect uses a camera and infrared sensors to track the movements of one or more users. It began life in 2010 as an Xbox accessory that sold eight million units in 60 days, rescuing Microsoft's profits and setting a Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling consumer electronics device ever.
Hackers began modifying the device to work with PCs, and Microsoft responded by encouraging them with the beta SDK. The company's enthusiasm for using Kinect as a new interface for Windows may even extend to seeing the technology build directly into laptops, according to some reports.
The finalised SDK includes support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer, as well as "significantly improved skeletal tracking, including the ability for developers to control which user is being tracked by the sensor", Eisler said on Wednesday.
There is also a new 'near mode' allowing the Kinect camera to track objects as close as 40cm. While greater distances made sense for the Xbox 360 version, the newly-enabled proximity would be essential for desktop or laptop use.
Speech recognition has also been made more accurate in the new version, according to Eisler. In December, Microsoft updated the Xbox 360 Kinect to use that capability to let users control the attached TV sets with voice commands.
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