Microsoft is preparing new Kinect hardware for Windows

23 Nov 2011

Microsoft has confirmed it is working on new Kinect hardware especially for the Windows ecosystem, including new firmware which enables the depth cameras to see as close as 50cm in front of the device. It has also set up a US$20,000 BizSpark fund for Kinect entrepreneurs.

In June, Microsoft launched a free Windows SDK that includes drivers, API, device interfaces, installer documents and resource materials for the Kinect platform.

In recent weeks, Microsoft said the Kinect for Windows commercial programme will launch in early 2012. But the question so far has been, will there be specific Kinect hardware for Windows?

“The answer is yes; building on the existing Kinect for Xbox 360 device, we have optimised certain hardware components and made firmware adjustments which better enable PC-centric scenarios,” explained Craig Eisler, general manager, Kinect for Windows in the Kinect blog.

“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 co-existence with other USB peripherals.”

Kinect beyond the living room

Eisler continued: “Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50cm in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40cm. ‘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 programme 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 programme 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 revolutionised with Kinect, and are proud to be helping those companies to explore the profound implications NUI has for the future.”

BizSpark Kinect Accelerator

Microsoft also has just launched a new initiative, the Kinect Accelerator incubation project run by Microsoft BizSpark, which will give developers 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 US $20,000 each, plus a number of other great perks. Applications are being accepted now through January 25th, 2012.”

Once the programme is completed, each company will have an opportunity to present at an Investor Demo Day to angel investors, venture capitalists, Microsoft executives, media and industry influencers.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years