We've been waiting for confirmation on yesterday's rumor, about Microsoft's motion-sensing Xbox 360 peripheral coming to PCs, and now we have it. MS has just now released a software development kit (SDK) for Windows that will allow .Net developers to write Kinecting apps in C++, C#, or VB. We spoke with some developer representatives from the company to get the full details, including just what you can and can't do with this big bundle of libraries. Follow us after the break for all the info.

At this point the SDK is effectively a straight-port of the same libs that are currently available to Xbox 360 developers. Built on XNA, the Kinect library is standalone, so you won't necessarily need to rely on DirectX being present. The SDK gives full access to everything the peripheral has to offer, including both cameras (VGA and depth-sensing) and the full microphone array. The former can identify up to six individuals or track the full skeletons for two, while the latter can handle advanced echo-cancellation and even sound triangulation.

To get the full skeleton tracking you're going to need the same sort of setup as on the Xbox 360 -- namely a largish space in front of your computer for you to stand in and plenty of light. But, developers will be able to extract raw data from both cameras should they like, so in theory someone should be able to write an app that works with a Kinect sitting on your desk and looks for simple gestures from you, even if you're seated in a chair. That's our ideal scenario: hand-waving recognition in productivity apps to bridge the gap between mousing and multitouching.

To that end, Microsoft isn't confirming any plans to integrate Kinect compatibility with any of its major apps (alas, no jazz-hand formula creation in Excel), but the company's own coders are said to have their "juices flowing" thinking of ways to integrate the tech. Hopefully those creative fluids ooze their way right into the heart of Windows 8.

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Microsoft Releases Kinect for Windows SDK Beta for Academics and Enthusiasts

Twenty-four-hour Code Camp event showcases capabilities now available to developers.


REDMOND, Wash. - June 16, 2011 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the availability of Kinect™ for Windows® Software Development Kit (SDK) from Microsoft Research, a free beta release for noncommercial applications. The SDK is designed to empower a growing community of developers, academic researchers and enthusiasts to create new experiences that include depth sensing, human motion tracking, and voice and object recognition using Kinect technology on Windows 7. The Kinect for Windows SDK can be downloaded today at no cost for development of noncommercial applications at http://research.microsoft.com/kinectsdk.

To celebrate the release, Microsoft invited a select group of developers to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, challenging them to test the limits of their imaginations using the SDK in a Channel 9 Live 24-hour coding marathon (aka "Code Camp"). Working with the new toolkit and a vast array of hardware, developers are expected to build concept applications across a diverse range of scenarios, including, potentially, healthcare, science and education. Projects from Code Camp will be shown in a live broadcast on Channel 9 today from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. PDT, and highlights can be found on the Microsoft News Center at http://channel9.msdn.com/live.

"The Kinect for Windows SDK opens up a world of possibilities to developers who want to unleash the power of Kinect technology on Windows," said Anoop Gupta, distinguished scientist, Microsoft Research. "We can't wait to see what this community will create as we work together to build more natural, intuitive computing experiences."

The Kinect for Windows SDK, which works with Windows 7, includes drivers, rich APIs for Raw Sensor Streams, natural user interfaces, installer documents and resource materials. The SDK provides Kinect capabilities to developers building applications with C++, C# or Visual Basic® using Microsoft® Visual Studio® 2010.

Features of the SDK include the following:

• Raw Sensor Streams. Developers have access to raw data streams from depth sensor, color camera sensor and the four-element microphone array. These will allow them to build upon the low-level streams generated by the Kinect sensor.

• Skeletal Tracking. The SDK has the capability to track the skeleton image of one or two people moving within the Kinect field of view, making it possible to create gesture-driven applications.

• Advanced Audio Capabilities. Audio processing capabilities include sophisticated noise suppression and echo cancellation, beam formation to identify the current sound source, and integration with the Windows speech recognition API.

• Ease of installation. The SDK quickly installs in a standard way for Windows 7 with no complex configuration required and a complete installer size of less than 100 MB. Developers can get up and running in just a few minutes with a standard standalone Kinect sensor unit widely available at retail.

• Extensive documentation. The SDK includes more than 100 pages of high-quality technical documentation. In addition to built-in help files, the documentation includes detailed walkthroughs for most samples provided with the SDK.

Microsoft intends to release a commercial version of the SDK at a later date; details will be released when they are available. The conversation is on Twitter under the hashtag #Kinect_SDK.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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