Kinect for Windows: How Gaming Tech Is Migrating to Business

February 2, 2012

Kinect for Windows will begin transforming business and retail experiences. Image: Microsoft

Today Microsoft announced the release of its Kinect for Windows commercial development package. It’s not a product that you’re going to buy and place on top of your desktop PC to play Kinect-controlled computer games — at least for now. But in due time, you could begin seeing Kinect-driven Windows applications in a variety of real-world business settings.

Kinect for Windows is designed for commercial applications. This means it’s mostly aimed at developers and businesses looking to utilize Kinect technology in industries such as education, healthcare and retail. The Kinect for Windows bundle costs $250, and includes Kinect sensor hardware optimized for close-proximity gesturing, as well as the Kinect for Windows software development kit.

Last week we learned of a few Windows 8 prototype laptops that had Kinect sensors built in. On the whole, today’s announcement is unrelated. Craig Eisler, General Manager for Kinect for Windows, told Wired that although developers may end up creating ways to control the Windows 8 interface using Kinect gestures, it would be a challenging feat. “I’m sure people will experiment — they are experimenting with all sorts of things,” Einsler said.

So where will we likely see Kinect for Windows being used? Eisler envisions systems at car dealerships, making it easier to find information about that subcompact you’re interested in. Kinect apps might also appear in retail stores, providing fun, creative, gamey ways to interact with merchandise.

The Kinect SDK has actually been available since last summer, and more than 300 companies have been using it for creative interface development. But until now, developers have had to rely on the Xbox 360 version of the sensor hardware.

Kinect for Windows now makes development easier, offering previously unavailable hardware features. One is called near mode, and it lets the Kinect capture gestures as close as 15.75 inches (40 cm) away. Microsoft has also modified the hardware and system software to be compatible with PCs and USB controllers. A post on Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows blog details all of the new changes to the platform.

Eisler intimated that Kinect for Windows may not always be earmarked for developers and companies. Although the focus on today’s release is for “commercial” applications, some of those applications could certainly bear consumer appeal.

“If neat apps are built that are attractive to a home user, people can certainly buy it,” Eisler said. For example, if you’re into 3-D animation, and someone builds a tool using Kinect that lets you perform real-time motion capture, you might be interested in purchasing it and checking it out.

If you’re interested in purchasing Kinect for Windows, you can get it from the Microsoft Store or Amazon.

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