Microsoft Launches Kinect for Windows

Microsoft has released Kinect for Windows SDK version 1, which offers improved skeletal tracking, enhanced speech recognition, modified API, and the ability to support up to four Kinect for Windows sensors plugged into one computer.

Kinect for Windows now includes the latest Microsoft Speech Platform SDK Version 11 components and an updated English (U.S.) Language Pack for Kinect, providing improved language recognition and more accurate confidence level scoring. The greatly simplified and streamlined Kinect audio object model makes writing audio and speech apps easier and more effective than before. In addition, the appropriate speech runtime components are automatically installed on 32- or 64-bit systems, according to the company.

In the three months since Microsoft released Beta 2, it has made many improvements to its SDK and runtime, including:

  • Support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer;
  • Significantly 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;
  • Many API updates and enhancements in the managed and unmanaged runtimes;
  • 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; and
  • Robustness improvements including driver stability, runtime fixes, and audio fixes.

"Kinect for Windows offers the potential to transform how people interact with computers and Windows-embedded devices in multiple industries, including education, healthcare, retail, transportation, and beyond," the company said in a statement. "We've seen a tremendous amount of interest in the Kinect for Windows commercial program, with more than 300 companies participating in our early adopter program. Although the commercial hardware and software were not released until [this week], we're already seeing innovative examples of commercial uses from some of our early adopter participants. The possibilities are endless."

The newly released hardware is optimized for use with computers and devices running Windows 7, Windows 8 developer preview (desktop applications only), and Windows Embedded-based devices.

The suggested retail price is $249 in the U.S. Later this year, the company will offer a special academic pricing of $149 under its Qualified Educational Users program. In the U.S., Kinect for Windows sensors are available at Amazon.com and the online Microsoft store, with other resellers to be added soon.

"Looking towards the future, we are planning on releasing updates to our SDK and runtime two to three times per year—in fact, the team is already hard at work on the next release," said Craig Eisler, general manager, Kinect for Windows, in a blog post.

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