Since announcing a few weeks ago that the Kinect for Windows commercial program will launch in early 2012, we’ve been asked whether there will also be new Kinect hardware especially for Windows. The answer is yes; building on the existing Kinect for Xbox 360 device, we 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.
Simple changes include shortening the USB cable to ensure reliability across a broad range of computers and the inclusion of a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals. Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters. “Near Mode” will enable a whole new class of “close up” applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360. This is one of the most requested features from the many developers and companies participating in our Kinect for Windows pilot program and folks commenting on our forums, and we’re pleased to deliver this, and more, at launch.
Another thing we’ve heard from our pilot customers is that companies exploring commercial uses of Kinect want to operate with the assurance of support and future innovation from Microsoft. As part of Microsoft’s deep commitment to NUI, we designed the Kinect for Windows commercial program to give licensed customers access to ongoing updates in both speech and human tracking (where Microsoft has been investing for years), in addition to providing fully supported Kinect hardware for Windows. We’ve been captivated by the countless creative ways companies worldwide envision how their businesses and industries can be revolutionized with Kinect, and are proud to be helping those companies to explore the profound implications NUI has for the future.
Microsoft also has just launched a new initiative, the Kinect Accelerator incubation project run by Microsoft BizSpark. I will be serving as a Mentor for this program, along with a number of other folks from Microsoft. BizSpark helps software startups through access to Microsoft software development tools, connection to key industry players (including investors) and by providing marketing visibility. The Kinect Accelerator will give 10 tech-oriented companies using Kinect (on either Windows or Xbox360) an investment of $20,000 each, plus a number of other great perks. Applications are being accepted now through January 25th, 2012. At the end of the program, each company will have an opportunity to present at an Investor Demo Day to angel investors, venture capitalists, Microsoft executives (including me), media and industry influentials. I can’t wait to see what they (and maybe you?) come up with!
Craig EislerGeneral Manager, Kinect for Windows
Have you heard about the “Kinect Effect” yet? It’s a term we started using around Microsoft shortly after the launch of Kinect last year to describe the amazing and creative ways Kinect was being applied to fields beyond gaming.
We’ve seen exploration with Kinect by artists, entertainers, retailers, educators, and physical therapists (just to name a few.) In fact, we’ve seen research in nearly every area imaginable.
Check out the Kinect Effect to see what it’s all about. This video does a great job capturing the potential. And it’s this potential that drives the enthusiasm my team and I have for developing Kinect for Windows.
After just one short year, it still feels like every application is the first and each idea is new and fresh. We can’t wait to see what’s next when, early next year, Kinect for Windows will be available for commercial use. Then, we’ll see even more new ideas which will continue to inspire us, and others, to keep driving the innovation forward.
General Manager, Kinect for Windows
To commemorate the one-year anniversary of Kinect and the Kinect Effect, I sent an email to my team earlier this week. I’d like to quote for you what I said to them, “It all started with a revolutionary sensor and amazing software that turned voice and movement into magic. With that magical combination, last year the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft showed the world how to re-imagine gaming. This year, we’re showing the world how to re-imagine entertainment. Next year, with Kinect for Windows, we will help the world re-imagine everything else.”
To mark the milestone, the Kinect for Windows team is celebrating with our own milestones: We’re starting up this blog, launching the official Kinect for Windows web site, and releasing beta 2 of the Kinect for Windows SDK. (And, yes, we will celebrate the anniversary more this evening– it’s been an amazing journey these past months!)
I know many of you are eagerly awaiting the Kinect for Windows commercial program coming in early 2012. My team is working hard to deliver a great product and I’m confident that it will be worth the wait.
We’ve already seen strong enthusiasm for Kinect among developers who have done amazing things with it in countless different ways, from education to healthcare, gaming to art installations, manufacturing to retail.
Currently, we have more than 200 companies taking part in our pilot program. They are telling us how Kinect for Windows will help them transform their products, their processes, their brands, and their businesses. Putting the power of Kinect + Windows into the hands of business leaders and technical visionaries will give them the tools they need to develop novel solutions for everything from training employees to visualizing data, from configuring a car to managing an assembly line.
The updated software development kit that we released today includes some great new features that help us get closer to realizing this vision, including faster skeletal tracking, better accuracy rate when it comes to skeletal tracking and joint recognition, and the ability to plug and unplug your Kinect without losing work/productivity.
Every day, I come to work and learn about another amazing application that a partner or other developer is doing with Kinect for Windows. I look forward to next year, when the potential goes exponential and everyone’s ideas, including yours, are part of that equation.
If you haven’t done so already, download the SDK and re-imagine the world with us.
--Craig Eisler General Manager, Kinect for Windows