Microsoft Kinect Coming to PCs February 1, 2012

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has confirmed it will release a PC version of its Kinect hands-free motion control system on February 1, 2012. The new hardware offering will be expensive.

Kinect was first offered for the Xbox 360 video game console in late 2010. It was Microsoft's effort to counter the Nintendo Wii system, which allows players to control on-screen action by moving a handheld device rather than a traditional controller.

Microsoft One-Ups Wii Controllers with Kinect

The motion-oriented controls of the Wii made games more accessible to casual players, while adding more realism to the game. Players simply swing the controller like a racket, for example, when playing a tennis game.

In comparison, Microsoft's Kinect system for Xbox 360 completely removed the handheld controller out of the equation. Instead, a system of 3D cameras and a microphone tracks players' whole body movements, which works particularly well for dance-based games.

PC Enthusiasts Create Kinect Applications

Kinect proved hugely popular with gamers, selling 18 million units to date.

More importantly, however, the Kinect has proven to go beyond simple gaming. Tech-savvy users have developed unauthorized software to so that the Kinect can work on personal computers (PCs), and thus, applications that run on PCs. One set-up, for example, allowed users to browse the Internet using hand gestures to select web pages or "click" on a link.

Eventually, Microsoft made the Kinect available for developers so that its use could blossom into other areas.

The new PC version of the Kinect is said to retail for $250 -- $100 more than the Xbox 360 version. Microsoft says the lower-priced Xbox 360 version is supported by revenues from increased games sales and online gaming subscriptions, which is unlikely with Windows buyers. (Source:

Cameras Redesigned For PC Screens

There are some special tweaks to the hardware for PC use, most notably the way it's designed to recognize movement from a user just 50 centimeters away. This is necessary because PC users normally sit closer to their screens than game console users.

Microsoft is clearly hoping that its own portfolio of Kinect games and other software will be augmented by third-party software makers creating applications that make use of the technology. It's very possible the new Kinect could control Windows 8. (Source:

Software Developers May Be Wary

The biggest potential problem of the Kinect is a chicken-and-egg scenario, say critics.

Prospects for the Kinect may be wary of spending $250 for the new product until there is plenty of relevant software for it.

As such, developers might not want to put much effort into supporting a product that doesn't have a large enough installed base of users.

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