Perhaps one of the most innovative, and highly received gadgets of the last few years is the Microsoft Kinect device for the Xbox 360. Functioning as a motion sensing input device, the Kinect builds on, and improves, the functionality that the Nintendo Wii brought to the gaming world. Released in November 2010, the Kinect allows users to feel as if they are a part of the game they are playing on an Xbox 360 by sensing motion and voice commands to control scenes.
The Microsoft gadget currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the fastest selling consumer electronics device in history after 8 million units flew off the shelves in the first sixty days of launch, which shows just how well received the gadget was. Such is the innovation behind Kinect that it immediately peaked the interest of the developing community, and only a couple days after the Kinect was officially launched it was announced that it actually been hacked to allow it to be used with a PC as well as the 360. The electronics kit maker ‘Adafruit’ made an offer in early November 2010, offering $1000 to the first person who could produce working drivers for the Kinect. The competition was actually won be a certain Hector Martin, who may be well known to some people as working on hacking the iPhone and Nintendo Wii alongside the iPhone Dev Team and the Wii Hacker Team.
It seemed that the natural progression of the Kinect would be to release a version which would be work officially with the Windows operating system. A number of open source projects from the community has proved over the last twelve months that there is definitely a use for the device on a Windows based PC. Microsoft released a non commercial development kit in June 2011 which allowed developers to begin tinkering with writing applications to support the device on Windows 7. This was later followed up with the release of a commercial SDK, allowing .NET developers to write Kinect compatible software using C++/CLI or the old favorite, Visual Basic .NET.
Due to the release of the Software Development Kits in mid 2011, it was perhaps unsurprising that the company has announced at this years Consumer Electronics Show that Kinect for Windows will officially be launched on February 1st. The previous date of ‘early 2012’ was narrowed down by Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer in a typically enthusiastic on stage performance. One thing Ballmer didn’t discuss was the pricing structure for the device, however, a pre order page has subsequently appeared on Amazon with the Windows Kinect being priced at $249.99. Yes, you’re right, that is a huge $100 more than the 360 version of the gadget, but it does feature an enhanced camera with a ‘Near Mode’ function allowing the device to capture motion from users as close as 50cm away without any degradation of service. It has also been reported by Major Nelson that the device will only work on machines running the SDK software, but that does remain to be seen.