What's new in Microsoft's Kinect for Windows final bits

Microsoft has made available the 1.0 version of its Kinect for Windows hardware and software under a commercial license.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft released for download on February 1 the final bits for the first version of its Kinect for Windows software and began shipping the accompanying sensor hardware.

The Kinect for Windows sensor looks like the Kinect for Xbox sensor. But it is designed to work at closer range and to work with Windows 7/8 PCs. In addition to making firmware adjustments in the new Windows Kinect sensor, Microsoft has shortened the the USB cable and is including of a “small dongle” to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals. The Windows version will modify the Kinect depth camera to see objects that are “as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device” without sacrificing accuracy or precision.

The Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) and runtime are now available under a commercial license, not just a hobbyist license, allowing developers to create commercial/business applications that make use of the product.

In the three months since Microsoft released Beta 2 of the Kinect for Windows software, the company has fine-tuned it a bit. Here are some of the new features introduced since Beta 2, according to the Softies:

  • Support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer
  • Improved skeletal tracking, including the ability for developers to control which user is being tracked by the sensor
  • Near Mode for the new Kinect for Windows hardware, which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 40 centimeters in front of the device
  • API updates and enhancements in the managed and unmanaged runtimes
  • Inclusion of the latest Microsoft Speech components (V11) in the SDK and runtime installer
  • Improved “far-talk” acoustic model that increases speech recognition accuracy
  • New and updated samples, such as Kinect Explorer, which enables developers to explore the full capabilities of the sensor and SDK, including audio beam and sound source angles, color modes, depth modes, skeletal tracking, and motor controls
  • A commercial-ready installer which can be included in an application’s set-up program, making it easy to install the Kinect for Windows runtime and driver components for end-user deployments.
  • Improvements in driver stability, runtime fixes, and audio fixes

Version 1.0 of the SDK and runtime are downloadable here. Microsoft partners in 12 launch countries are shipping the sensor hardware for $249 (retail). Microsoft officials said that some time later this year, Microsoft will also make the Kinect for Windows product available for $149 for Qualified Educational Users.

Microsoft is planning to release updates to the Kinect for Windows SDK and runtime between two and three times per year, officials said. According to a report in The Daily, Microsoft also is planning to license the Kinect for Windows technology to Windows 8 PC makers so they can integrate support for the peripheral in their upcoming Windows 8 machines. Microsoft officials have not confirmed or denied the Kinect PC licensing report.

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