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Kinect for Windows Officially Available, Includes SDK for Developers

Microsoft has provided official software development tools for ‘Kinect for Windows’, the PC version of its Xbox 360 peripheral, movement-based controller device that is preconfigured to work on Windows 7 or 8 operating systems.

Originally for the Redmond-based software giant’s Xbox 360 gaming console, hackers immediately worked out a method for Kinect to interface with the PC. They are even writing their own software for this task.

However, a slew of these unofficial Kinect for PC projects do not center on gaming applications. Researchers and programmers test the motion-control technology for academic, industrial and office environments. A couple Kinect for PC projects are somewhat complex, which include a life-sized teleconferencing setup called telepresence that uses 10 Kinect units to present people in full size.|

kinect-for-windows
Dance Evolution on Kinect for Xbox 360 (Image: Wipley/BrainSins, via Flickr / CC)

Official Support

Microsoft took heed and finally made up its mind to add official support and promote non-gaming development projects with the release of Kinect for Windows. The company currently provides official software tools for app developers to start with.

Microsoft considers the current offering as a testing ground for developers. However, any interested individual or company can purchase and play with Kinect for Windows. For now, users can experience a very early preview for interaction with office apps and overall computer system.

Where to Get One

The gaming console maker sells Kinect for Windows at $249.99 through its official channels and authorized online retailers. As such, finding the hardware through brick-and-mortar stores will highly be unlikely.

The package contains the Kinect unit itself and a power supply. Do not expect to find something that’s not there.

How to Set Up and Install

Xbox 360 users usually place the Kinect above or at the base of a display screen, with its sensors and camera lens facing in their direction. However, this is not applicable with a computer or notebook setup. Microsoft did not design Kinect to clip or attach to the top of a flat-screen monitor or notebook screen. The size of Kinect for Windows is similar to that of the original Xbox 360 version. This means Microsoft designed it for a home entertainment center in your living room.

You need to download the software development kit (SDK) from the official site of Kinect for Windows to install its drivers.  After installing Kinect SDK Version 1.0 on your Windows PC, plug it to the power supply and connect its USB cable to the computer.

Kinect for Windows has an SDK Sample Browser that lists the latest release notes, docs, and demos on how to program its technical aspects.

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Kinect for Xbox 360 (Image: bm.iphone, via Flickr / CC)

Applications

End users, however, are quite unfortunate, as only programmers can make use of everything stuffed inside the SDK. Also found within the development kit is a simple demo game that highlights the Kinect’s speech recognition and skeletal tracking technologies. If you already bought Kinect for Windows, do not fret too much about writing your own app from scratch. Here are a few apps for your testing pleasure:

      1. Kinect PowerPoint Control – This app allows you to interact with PowerPoint via Kinect. When watching a presentation, you can flip to the next slide by extending your right arm. If you want to flip slides backwards, use your left arm. That’s all there is to it.
      2. Kinecting with PowerPoint (in the works) – This manipulates presentations through speech recognition and gestures. However, this is still under development by an independent developer who works by himself. It is not yet available for download.
      3. KineSis – This project targets a more detailed Kinect user experience. Users not only have the ability to control PowerPoint with this app, but it also allows them to use Kinect for Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. For instance, you can zoom in on cells in Excel, or highlight text or draw on documents in Word by gesturing.
      4. Microsoft KinectYou – This app can control Windows OS through a Kinect with KinectNUI (NUI stands for Natural User Interface). This project has very low maturity since it has not received any updates for nearly a year. However, it gives a good preview on how motion-based controls apply to Windows. Check out this video link.
      5. StagePresence – This app uses Kinect to capture images and movements in real time. It places your image on the display screen with a customized background, document or virtual surrounding. The experience is similar to how weather reporters are presented on TV, which is against a weather map.
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