I am pleased to announce that we released the Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) 1.8 today. This is the fourth update to the SDK since we first released it commercially one and a half years ago. Since then, we’ve seen numerous companies using Kinect for Windows worldwide, and more than 700,000 downloads of our SDK.
We build each version of the SDK with our customers in mind—listening to what the developer community and business leaders tell us they want and traveling around the globe to see what these dedicated teams do, how they do it, and what they most need out of our software development kit.
The new background removal API is useful for advertising, augmented reality gaming, training and simulation, and more.
Kinect for Windows SDK 1.8 includes some key features and samples that the community has been asking for, including:
We also have updated our Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) with guidance to complement the new Adaptive UI sample, including the following:
Design a transition that reveals or hides additional information without obscuring the anchor points in the overall UI.
Design UI where users can accomplish all tasks for each goal within a single range.
My team and I believe that communicating naturally with computers means being able to gesture and speak, just like you do when communicating with people. We believe this is important to the evolution of computing, and are committed to helping this future come faster by giving our customers the tools they need to build truly innovative solutions. There are many exciting applications being created with Kinect for Windows, and we hope these new features will make those applications better and easier to build. Keep up the great work, and keep us posted!
Bob Heddle, DirectorKinect for Windows
It is essential for retailers to find ways to attract and connect with customers—and to stand out from the competition. To help them do so, the industry is grappling with how to build interactive experiences at scale that engage and truly help customers make satisfying purchasing decisions while also using retail space strategically to provide the best possible experience.
To get a deeper understanding of what this means, we did extensive first-hand research with dozens of retailers and big brands . We learned how retailers think about implementing natural user interface technology (NUI) and how they see these experiences helping propel their businesses forward.
What we heard:
We agree. And we believe it’s important for us to bring these findings back into Kinect for Windows by delivering features that facilitate the best retail innovations. To help support this, we recently released an update to our SDK (Kinect for Windows SDK 1.8) that includes new features specifically designed to enable the development of higher-quality digital signage applications. Key features include the ability to remove backgrounds, an adaptive UI sample, and an HTML interaction sample.
To help illustrate what this all means, our team developed the following three videos. They show how Kinect for Windows experiences can help retailers attract new customers and engage customers in deeper ways. They offer examples of ways that digital signs powered by Kinect for Windows can draw customers into the business—making it possible for retailers to share offerings, cross-sell and upsell merchandise, bring the “endless aisle” concept to life, and, ultimately, inspire shoppers to purchase. And all of this is accomplished in a beautiful way that feels natural to the customer.
These videos highlight some of the core benefits retailers tell us Kinect for Windows offers them:
Kinect for Windows does this by optimizing interactions with existing large screens and enhancing the overall retail space—using gesture and voice control, background removal, proximity-based interface, and more.
So many companies have already created exciting retail experiences with Kinect for Windows: Bloomingdales, Build-a-Bear, Coca-Cola, Mattel, Nissan, Pepsi, and others. We are excited to see the new ways that Kinect for Windows is being applied in retail. The dramatic shifts in consumer shopping behaviors, preferences, and expectations in retail today are driving innovation to new levels. The possibilities are endless when we use the latest technology to put the customer at the heart of the business.
Kinect for Windows Team
In addition to being a great day for Xbox One, today is also a great day for Kinect for Windows. We have started delivering Kinect for Windows v2 Developer Preview kits to program participants. The Developer Preview includes a pre-release Kinect for Windows v2 sensor, access to the new generation Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK), as well as ongoing updates and access to private program forums. Participants will also receive a Kinect for Windows v2 sensor when they become available next summer (northern hemisphere).
Microsoft is committed to making the Kinect for Windows sensor and SDK available early to qualifying developers and designers so they can prepare to have their new-generation applications ready in time for general availability next summer. We continue to see a groundswell for Kinect for Windows. We received thousands of applications for this program and selected participants based on the applicants’ expertise, passion, and the raw creativity of their ideas. We are impressed by the caliber of the applications we received and look forward to seeing the innovative NUI experiences our Developer Preview customers will create.
The new Kinect for Windows v2 sensor will feature the core capabilities of the new Kinect for Xbox One sensor. With the first version of Kinect for Xbox 360, developers and businesses saw the potential to apply the technology beyond gaming—in many different computing environments. Microsoft believes that the opportunities for revolutionizing computing experiences will be even greater with this new sensor. The benefits will raise the bar and accelerate the development of NUI applications across multiple industries, from retail and manufacturing to healthcare, education, communications, and more:
Real VisionKinect Real Vision technology dramatically expands its field of view for greater line of sight. An all-new active IR camera enables it to see in the dark. And by using advanced three-dimensional geometry, it can even tell if you’re standing off balance.
Real MotionKinect Real Motion technology tracks even the slightest gestures. So a simple squeeze of your hand results in precise control over an application, whether you’re standing up or sitting down.
Real VoiceKinect Real Voice technology focuses on the sounds that matter. Thanks to an all-new multi-microphone array, the advanced noise isolation capability lets the sensor know who to listen to, even in a crowded space.
2014 will be exciting, to say the least. We will keep you updated as the Developer Preview program evolves and we get closer to the Kinect for Windows v2 worldwide launch next summer. Additionally, follow the progress of the early adopter community by keeping an eye on them (#k4wdev) and by following us (@kinectwindows).
The Kinect for Windows Team
Since our announcement of Kinect for Windows version 1.5 in “What’s Ahead: A Sneak Peek” there have been a few questions that have come up that I wanted to answer.
There have been some folks who have thought that 1.5 included new hardware. Version 1.5 is our new software release that is coming out in the same timeframe that we launch the current Kinect for Windows hardware in 19 additional countries. We will upgrade our software at a faster rate than we refresh our hardware.
We have built version 1.5 of our software with 1.0 compatibility at top of mind. Applications built using 1.0 will work on the same machine with an application built using 1.5 – this is something that we plan to do always, insuring that solutions built using older runtimes can always run side by side with solutions using new runtimes. Furthermore, we have maintained API compatibility for developers – applications that are currently being built using the 1.0 SDK can be recompiled using the 1.5 SDK without any changes required. No one has to wait for 1.5 to get a Kinect for Windows sensor or to start coding using the current SDK!
I love the enthusiasm for the 1.5 SDK and runtime, the new speech languages, and for the new countries we’re launching in – we can’t wait to deliver it to you.
Craig EislerGeneral Manager, Kinect for Windows
Back in May, we released the Kinect for Windows SDK/Runtime v1.5 in a modular manner, to make it easier to refresh parts of the Developer Toolkit (tools, components, and samples) without the need to update the SDK (driver, runtime, and basic compilation support).
Today, we have realized that vision with the Developer Toolkit update v1.5.1. This update boosts Kinect Studio performance and stability, improves face tracking, and introduces offline documentation support. If you have already installed the SDK, simply download the new v1.5.1 Developer Toolkit Update. If you are new to Kinect for Windows, you will want to download both Kinect for Windows SDK v1.5 and Developer Toolkit v1.5.1.
Rob RelyeaProgram Manager, Kinect for Windows
Twelve weeks ago, I announced that the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect had opened its doors and the 11 participating teams had arrived in Seattle. Yesterday, the program concluded with Demo Day—an all-day event attended by more than 150 investors and journalists—where each of the startups presented their business plans and applications.
From the beginning, we believed this program was going to be amazing: we had hoped to receive 100 to 150 applications, but ended up with nearly 500 from more than 60 countries. There were so many amazing, creative ideas from a whole range of talented, successful people. As I said in a previous post, getting to the finalists was super challenging.
The teams who came here to Seattle—leaving jobs, families, university, and the comforts of their daily lives—did not disappoint. Their energy, drive, and innovative thinking were a constant source of inspiration to me and the folks across Microsoft that worked with them.
There were a lot great moments at Demo Day; here are just a few of many:
I think all the Kinect Accelerator companies have done an outstanding job the past 12 weeks and have bright futures ahead. These 11 teams are helping accelerate and push the boundary of what’s possible with Kinect for Windows, and inspiring others to think creatively about what the future looks like when Kinect-enabled, touch-free NUI experiences are commonplace.
Thanks to all of the teams that participated in the Accelerator and to the many others who applied. Keep up the great work!
Craig EislerGeneral Manager, Kinect for Windows
The Imagine Cup competition—which recently concluded its tenth year—throws the spotlight on cutting-edge innovations. Two-thirds of the education-focused projects utilized Microsoft Kinect in a variety of different ways, including interactive therapy for stroke victims, an automated cart to help make solo trips to crowded public places manageable for the disabled, and an application to help dyslexic children learn the alphabet.
Team Wi-GO of Portugal invented a Kinect-enabled cart to aid the disabled.
Students from 75 countries participated in the Imagine Cup Finals, held July 6 to 11 in Sydney, Australia, which featured more than 100 projects. Kinect for Windows played a significant role in this year's competition, with 28 Kinect-enabled projects across multiple categories—including Software Design, Game Design, Windows Azure, and a Fun Labs Challenge that was focused entirely on Kinect.
With the goal of using technology to help solve the world's toughest problems, students put Kinect to work providing the digital eyes, ears, and tracking capabilities needed for a range of potential new products and applications. We applaud all of the teams who incorporated Kinect for Windows into their projects this year! Here are highlights from a few of them:
"Imagine Cup is about giving students the resources and tools they need to succeed and then getting out of their way and letting them create," said Walid Abu-Hadba, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism group. "Kinect in particular is unlocking a new class of interactive solutions. It's inspiring to watch the way students from a multitude of backgrounds find common ground as they combine their love of technology with their determination to make a difference. It's amazing."
We look forward to next year’s Imagine Cup. In the meantime, keep up the great work.
• Kinect for Windows Gallery• Imagine Cup website• Imagine Cup winners and finalists• Team wi-GO • Team Whiteboard Pirates • Team Flexify• Italian Ingenium Team• The D Labs• Make a Sign
We’re pleased to announce the release of Developer Toolkit update v1.5.2, which includes:
If you have already installed the Kinect for Windows SDK, simply download the new v1.5.2 Developer Toolkit Update. If you are new to Kinect for Windows, download both the Kinect for Windows SDK v1.5 and the Developer Toolkit v1.5.2.
Earlier this week at the 2012 Seattle Interactive Conference, Oscar Murillo, user experience architect for Kinect for Windows, kicked off a six-person panel discussion about the transformational power of voice and gesture technology with a demonstration that showed participants how much the Kinect sensor has grown beyond its gaming roots.
"Kinect for Windows is a premier technology that enables users to interact with systems without touching a user interface" noted Murillo. "Human-to-human interactions are fluid and multimodal. With Kinect for Windows, we see human-computer interactions that are coming closer to mirroring the way humans naturally interact: effortless, transparent, and contextual communication between users and technology—by using voice and gesture—are now becoming possible. We see interactions that are as natural as human beings themselves." Murillo illustrated how, by using Kinect for Windows, he can control an environment with his body and voice. The sensor changed his appearance and even placed him in different environments by using "real-time green screening" to provide a museum setting and an abstract landscape of cubes and spheres with which he could interact. Murillo tracked 100 different points on his face and showed both thermal and radiant scanning. The use of these and other emerging techniques provides "a novel way for users to interact with products, brands, environments, services, and each other," Murillo added.
After Murillo’s presentation, Steve Clayton, editor of Next at Microsoft blog, moderated a panel of NUI thought leaders from around the world who are using Kinect for Windows in their work.
Academy Award-winning visual effects designer John Gaeta, who developed the "bullet time" effects in The Matrix Trilogy, also worked on Kinect for Windows in its early stages. His company, Float Hybrid Entertainment, develops interactive displays and participates in the Kinect for Windows advisory board.
"The thing that is interesting is the human interface part of it," observed Gaeta. "To allow people to have some sort of method to reflect themselves back, and that there can be a two-way relationship between the average person and a machine."
Scott Snibbe—founder of Snibbe Interactive and a world-renowned interactive media entrepreneur, researcher, and artist—is also an early pioneer with Kinect, which he has been working with since 2006. "With NUI, we can finally put the person in control of the computer instead of the computer controlling the person," he explained. "Humans are first and foremost social; Kinect for Windows can power social NUIs that respond to gesture and voice—the same way humans communicate with each other."
Matt Von Trott, digital director and partner at Assembly Ltd., noted the growing appeal of Kinect for Windows to the advertising industry. "In advertising these days, you need to make something that does more than make people talk about it," he said.
James Ashley, presentation layer architect on the Emerging Experiences team at the international digital agency Razorfish and a Microsoft Most Valued Professional for the Kinect sensor, remarked that he was skeptical the first time he saw the early concept videos for the project that eventually became Kinect for Windows. He didn’t believe it could really work. But it did, and the results were magical. "People want it and clients want it," he explained.
David Kung, vice president of business development at Oblong Industries, Inc. and former Disney Imagineer, notes that the bar for entry is much lower than with previous technological advances. "What's most exciting is how the developer community is adopting at a very low investment," he said. "Not just at a highly expensive R&D level."
"We still have a while to go before we get to true multi-modal—we are crawling still for sure," Kung added. "We can envision a time where technology could potentially answer a child's question while looking out the car window, 'What is that?' With NUI, GPS, and other advancements, such scenarios are possible."
This year's Seattle Interactive Conference (October 29 and 30) connected about 4,000 entrepreneurs, developers, and online business professionals who are all aspiring to explore the latest online technology and emerging trends. "We're straight-up geeks who just love technology, noted SIC co-founded Mark Peterson. “So, partnering with Microsoft and Kinect for Windows just made sense."
Kinect for Windows team
Traditional digital animation techniques can be costly and time-consuming. But KinÊtre—a new Kinect for Windows project developed by a team at Microsoft Research Cambridge—makes the process quick and simple enough that anyone can be an animator who brings inanimate objects to life.
KinÊtre uses the skeletal tracking technology in the Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) for input, scanning an object as the Kinect sensor is slowly panned around it. The KinÊtre team then applied their expertise in cutting-edge 3-D image processing algorithms to turn the object into a flexible mesh that is manipulated to match user movements tracked by the Kinect sensor.
Microsoft has made deep investments in Kinect hardware and software. This enables innovative projects like KinÊtre, which is being presented this week at SIGGRAPH 2012, the International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. Rather than targeting professional computer graphics (CG) animators, KinÊtre is intended to bring mesh animation to a new audience of novice users.
Shahram Izadi, one of the tool's creators at Microsoft Research Cambridge, told me that the goal of this research project is to make this type of animation much more accessible than it's been—historically requiring a studio full of trained CG animators to build these types of effects. "KinÊtre makes creating animations a more playful activity," he said. "With it, we demonstrate potential uses of our system for interactive storytelling and new forms of physical gaming."
This incredibly cool prototype reinforces the world of possibilities that Kinect for Windows can bring to life and even, perhaps, do a little dance.
Peter Zatloukal, Kinect for Windows Engineering Manager