Microsoft “excited” by Kinect hacking projects

By Tom Warren, on 26th Jan 11 12:45 pm with 2 Comments

Kinect plugged into a Windows 7 PC

Microsoft has revealed that the company is excited to see the new uses of Kinect.

Speaking on Microsoft’s official company blog, Microsoft blogger Steve Clayton revealed the company is excited by the hundreds of ways people are using Kinect. “The enthusiasm we are seeing in the scientific community – specifically the research and academic communities – around potential applications of Kinect, is exciting to see” wrote Clayton.

Clayton details a number of different research projects currently underway which make use of Microsoft’s Kinect sensor. “While these ideas and projects are at various stages, it’s inspiring to see and dream up what could be next” adds Clayton. “It’s an exciting time for Microsoft, our customers and partners as we explore the possibilities NUI has to offer and how we can make them a reality – Kinect for Xbox 360 is just a first step. For our part, we’ll look to apply our learning and technology to fields such as healthcare, education and beyond. We’ll continue to push the boundaries, lower the barriers of use for technology, and I think we’ll surprise people with the true potential of NUI.”

Microsoft has shipped over 8 million Kinect sensors in just 60 days on the market. Microsoft’s Kinect sensor has been a phenomenal success story for the company. The console accessory sold out across a number of retailers during the recent festive season and Microsoft smashed its own estimates of 5 million units in 2010 by shipping 8 million devices. Kinect hackers have shown off Minority Report style multitouch control and the Kinect running on Mac OS X. Microsoft said in November that it left the USB connection on the Kinect open, “by design.” Kinect hackers have recently taken the device to new heights. Videos emerged of device owners fully controlling Windows 7 and interactive prototype puppets. Kinect hacking is only at the very early stages but what’s clear is hackers are demonstrating the potential of the technology for use on PCs.

Clayton’s views on Kinect hacking are a stark contrast to one of his Microsoft colleagues. Sam Stokes, Academic Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, penned a grumpy blog post on Monday entitled “Thoughts on the Kinect hacks and iPad Hacks“. The post ridicules those who are “wasting time” developing hacks for Kinect. “Frankly, I think these hacks are a waste of time outside of academics or research.  If you do an interesting hack these days, are you going to be able to monetize it?  Are you going to save the world?  Not likely,” writes Stokes. The developer evangelist doesn’t stop there though. “Focus on Windows Presentation Foundation, learn XAML, learn HTML5, better use of your time,” advises Stokes. He ends his rant with a question – “Seriously, Hacking Kinect or iPad: Does anyone really care?”

WinRumors revealed earlier this month that Microsoft is currently preparing an official SDK and Kinect drivers for Windows. Microsoft is set to unveil driver support and an SDK in the coming months and will allow third-party developers to create titles that utilize the Kinect sensor when plugged into a PC. According to sources familiar with the plans, Microsoft will distribute the drivers under the “beta” tag. Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, promised Kinect for PC during an interview at CES and confirmed the company would announce official support “in the right time.”

Microsoft is expected to integrate Kinect support into its next version of Windows. Microsoft recently purchased 3D gesture experts Canesta. Microsoft’s investment in this technology is likely to see them focus heavily on bringing gesture based control to Windows 8. In early 2010, a number of Windows 8 product slides leaked from a HP employee that pointed towards some new product features. Kinect integration, a Windows App Store and fast boot were all promised. Microsoft previously purchased 3DV systems, who also create gesture recognition technology. With the push for this technology in gaming, it’s only natural that Microsoft would also want to port this to Windows.

  • Anonymous

    I think Microsoft’s desire to expand the use of Kinnect is a indicative of Microsoft’s struggle between being a hardware manufacturer and software. If this was Apple, they would just add in the Kinnect to every computer they sell. Microsoft might make it a feature in Win 8, but they will be at the mercy of OEMs to make it happen. Kind of the tragedy of Microsoft lately (and before) that they have so many good ideas, but can’t fully execute them. But here’s to hoping!

  • JohnCz

    It will be interesting to see how they optimize Windows 8 and next gen. Kinect hardware for close proximity tracking/gestures.