Microsoft preparing new Kinect hardware designed for Windows use

By Tom Warren, on 22nd Nov 11 10:30 pm with 15 Comments

Kinect plugged into a Windows 7 PC

Microsoft revealed on Tuesday that it’s planning to release new Kinect hardware especially for Windows.

The new Kinect for Windows hardware will be made available in early 2012 and contains optimised hardware components for PC scenarios. “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,” said Microsoft’s Kinect manager Craig Eisler in a blog post on Tuesday. “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.”

Microsoft is planning to shorten the USB cable to ensure reliability across a range of computers. The company will also include a small dongle to help ease coexistence with other USB devices. The new firmware updates for the Kinect will enable the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimetres in front of the device without losing any precision. Microsoft calls this “Near Mode” and the company hopes it will enable a whole new class of “up close” apps that have not been made available previously. “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,” said Eisler.

Microsoft’s Kinect hardware improvements follow the launch of Kinect Accelerator program last week. The competition will see ten finalists receive an investment of $20,000, an Xbox development kit, the Windows Kinect SDK, office space, all the resources of BizSpark, and technical training and support from Microsoft. The three-month incubation program will run from March to May next year at Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

Microsoft is planning to launch a commercial version of its Kinect for Windows SDK in early 2012. Microsoft launched its original Kinect for Windows SDK beta back in June, aimed at academic research and enthusiast communities to create new experiences using Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 accessory. Microsoft launched its own dedicated Kinect for Windows site earlier this month, alongside an updated beta 2 of the Kinect SDK.  The updated beta 2 SDK marks a year of Kinect and includes some new features and updates.

  • Anonymous

    Nice. I have Windows 7 so I can’t wait. I’d love to see the voice commands like in the latest Xbox beta dashboard build.  

  • Anonymous

    Yes! Forget touchscreens. Kinect + Metro UI = the future. 

  • Avatar Roku

    Voice commands better be a big part of Windows 8. They need to provide a TellMe API for developers too. If I can’t voice search Bing from any Windows 8 computer or tablet then Microsoft has failed. 

    • Guest

      How good is TellMe’s speech recognition for non-English? That could limit worldwide rollout of this type of feature.

  • http://twitter.com/pierrerv Pierre Venescar

    It’d be nice if MS made a pc hardware with intergrated kinect.

    • Robin Ashe

      You mean MS partners? I’d certainly enjoy a tablet PC with Kinect integrated. Even better would be a swivel cam, for front and back capture.

  • Robin Ashe

    I hope this PC centric Kinect is also Xbox compatible. That’d be an instant sale for me. Hook it up to the Xbox when using it, and hook it up to my laptop while using that.

    • Anonymous

      If you believe the leaks about windows 8, it will support xbox 360 games so I can’t see how compatibility wouldn’t happen.  Kinect for PC and windows 8 will be huge!

    • Robin Ashe

      I bet that Xbox 360 game support will come through XNA and porting the games to Windows 8 rather than straight up running them. Probably not an important difference though.

    • Anonymous

      Good point!  I guess the difference becomes more important the geekier you get, so pretty important for me!

  • Anonymous

    I hope it also supports hand/finger tracking and partial torso tracking. The current generation of Kinect doesn’t have any built-in support for tracking hands/fingers, something that would be very useful in a desktop environment. Also, the current skeletal tracking system requires the whole body be in view, legs and all. That’s no easy feat for desktop users.

  • http://twitter.com/mgk1969 Mark King

    I can see that eventually kinect sensors will be built into screens, similar to how most laptops now come with a built-in camera, where previously a webcam was something you attached or put on a stand.

    So a laptop with built in kinect and a touch screen. Sounds good.

    • http://twitter.com/mgk1969 Mark King

      Actually now that I think more about this it is probably a better idea to just build a kinect into a surface and hang it on the wall. I feel like Steve Jobs today. Microsoft, please build me 6 prototypes so I can choose the one I like and take all the credit.

    • Anonymous

      i just need them to push surface to the consumer domain and not just companies.
      i want to be able to buy one on amazon :)

    • http://twitter.com/mgk1969 Mark King

      I am actually pretty amazed they are only $8K. If they make 1000 of them at a time they are going to Corning for the glass and Samsung for the screens and asking for what would be a miniscule run for both companies. If they were manufacturing millions of them I imagine the price would come down, at the moment I can’t see economies of scale.