Microsoft will be officially supporting the use of their wildly popular Kinect Xbox 360 add-on for use on the PC with an SDK to arrive this spring. The Official Microsoft Blog made the announcement Monday.
Microsoft won’t be creating a consumer product themselves, yet. But they will offer a free downloadable software development kit aimed at “academic researchers and enthusiasts” many of whom have already been finding interesting ways to use the device. The video below is of a person using the Kinect to control a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.
The Microsoft Kinect is a gaming add-on for the Xbox 360 which takes video of a user and translates her physical movements into gaming motions. For example, kicking a soccer ball in a game requires mimicking actually kicking a ball with a foot as the user stands in front of a calibrated camera.
The Kinect sold millions of units during the holiday shopping season and made our list of the ten most exciting new gadgets of 2010. We gave it our nod for just this kind of potential. We hope that someone will find a way to create a user interface control for a PC that will allow users to control Windows via hand motions and head movements. Imagine a dialogue box that asks for OK/Cancel input and just nodding your head deliberately to say OK instead of having to click or going back in an Internet browser by swiping a hand in front of the camera. There has already been talk of it being incorporated into Windows 8 whenever it ships.
At CES 2011 Microsoft’s keynote address included information on how they will be adding Kinect style controls to things like Netflix and other non-gaming implementations on the console. This tipped off the growing community of Kinect hackers that something like this would be coming soon. But few likely expected it to happen this quickly. This is a positive sign.