Microsoft to produce Kinect hardware for Windows in 2012

Kinect for WindowsMicrosoft’s Xbox 360’s Kinect motion sensor had been one of the best selling tech gadget in the recent years, even breaking Guinness World Records for the fastest selling consumer electronics device within a 60-day period. But it appears Microsoft’s ambition for the Kinect technology does not stop with the game console, and just recently Microsoft released the Kinect for Windows SDK, which aims at bringing the motion sensing technology to PCs running Windows.

Well it doesn’t just stop here. Today on the official Kinect for Windows blog, Craig Eisler, General Manager for Kinect for Windows, officially confirmed that the company will be producing Kinect hardware specifically designed for Windows. Here’s an excerpt from the blog post:

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. 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. 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 coexistence with other USB peripherals. Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters. “Near Mode” will enable a whole new class of “close up” applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360.

If you have played with Kinect for Xbox 360 before, you’d notice that the sensor doesn’t quite like an object (i.e. you) being too close to the camera and sensor. Based on the blog post, it appears that Microsoft is continuously improving not just the Kinect hardware, but also the firmware for the device allowing users to use the device up-close. This improvement is particularly important given that it is impractical to be stepping a few metres away from their PC, laptop or tablet to control their device using gestures.

With the convergence of the “Metro” user interface between the new Xbox 360 dashboard and Windows 8, using gestures to navigate and control your PC does not seem too far away. Here’s hoping that one day the Kinect sensor is small enough to be embedded within our tablets or phones.