Microsoft Makes Kinect Available to All

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has released a software development kit (SDK) for its hands-free Xbox 360 peripheral, Kinect, on Windows. It means software developers of all kinds will be able to use the Xbox 360 motion control system on PC applications.

Kinect was originally designed as Microsoft's answer to the Nintendo Wii games console, which became popular with family audiences by letting them use simple hand gestures rather than complex button combinations.

Microsoft Kinect Uses Motion without Controller

Unlike the Nintendo Wii, and a similar system developed by Sony called 'Move', Kinect did away with handheld controllers altogether.

The system uses a combination of cameras and microphones to recognize the player's movements, making for a more realistic way of playing, particularly in sports or dance games. It's also become a useful marketing tool by helping counteract the pre-conception that video games cause people to be lazy and physically inactive.

Kinect Extremely Useful for Non-Gaming Applications

The Kinect technology was so impressive that many people outside Microsoft wanted to adapt it to non-gaming uses, such as using hand gestures to surf the web on a TV screen or scanning a user's body for use in an image editing application. This involved taking apart the Kinect gaming accessory (both physically and in software engineering terms) to get access to the tools.

At first, Microsoft argued such behavior was illegal and suggested it might call in law enforcement authorities. Later it decided this policy only applied to attempts to adapt the games console accessory itself; for example, to allow cheating in online games.

Eventually, Microsoft claimed it had intentionally left a USB socket on the device unprotected so that people could easily access the relevant files that make the system work.

Microsoft Releases Kinect SDK to Public

It appears the company has officially given up trying to fight the third-party modifications, releasing a software development kit for academic use.

The kit is an officially accessible copy of the files needed to adapt the technology, which includes a depth sensor to track physical movement, a color camera to distinguish individual players, and a microphone that can be "tuned" to four separate voices at once. (Source:

Now, the kit has been made available for free public download, with extensive support documents also to go online. Microsoft is stressing that the kit is only licensed for non-commercial use, though it will be releasing a commercial edition (presumably requiring royalty payments) later on. (Source:

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