Credit: Kinect for Windows
Craig Eisler, General Manager for Kinect for Windows at Microsoft officially announced Kinect will be integrated into Windows systems and applications earlier this month via post to their Kinect for Windows blog. Yesterday they released additional information, including some hardware changes, assuring prospective users they will provide support and announcing a development venture to promote innovation.
With the 2012 Windows release, Microsoft is making hardware improvements to allow the Kinect to focus on PC specific uses. In addition, their development team is hard at work upgrading the Software Development Kit (SDK) to enhance the PC experience. Perhaps one of the most anticipated features is the “Near Mode,” which will allow applications to utilize the motion tracking features as close as 50 centimeters from the sensor.
The Kinect motion sensor was initially developed for use with the popular Xbox 360 video game console. Since it’s release, the modding community has been busy developing new and interesting uses for the technology. Sure, some of these adaptations are used in game related situations, such as the hack for the first person shooter Bulletstorm (watch the gameplay video) that allows for a more immersive gaming experience.
However, not all Kinect hacks are restricted to the gaming space. Some hacks, such as the Flexible Action and Articulation Skeleton Toolkit (FAAST) developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, have applications of use for healthcare professionals. The University of Konstanz in Germany has developed remarkable adaptations with their Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired (NAVI) project, which was released to the open source community today. There is a large, active community of users who have adapted the technology for more creative uses within the performing arts. A more advanced example of the Kinect’s creative uses is seen with RoboThespian, the original robot actor. Not only is Kinect technology used to program the robot’s movements, also to create an interactive experience with its audience.
Undoubtedly, Microsoft has paid attention to the many varied uses people have discovered for the technology. They have embraced the hacking community and intend to continue doing so by announcing the Kinect Accelerator program through their start-up assistance program, Microsoft BizSpark. The incubator program looks to foster innovation by selecting 10 tech-oriented companies developing solutions on Xbox 360 or PC to benefit from their access to Microsoft development tools, industry contacts and heightened marketing acumen. Each company will receive $20,000.00 and time to make their solutions a reality. The companies will then present their solutions to a group of Microsoft executives, venture capitalists, angel investors and various press contacts. If your company is developing using Kinect, you can apply for the Kinect Accelerator program now through January 25th, 2012.