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Microsoft cooks Kinect for Windows

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:gesture interface? computing? startup?

Microsoft Corp. has announced that it plans to have its Kinect to work in Windows. As part of that initiative, it launched a contest that will give $20,000 to the 10 best startups with ideas for using the gesture interface for Windows.

The company has announced that it would extend Kinect from its Xbox 360 console to PCs by next year. It even rolled out a beta software developer's kit for Kinect for Windows and launched a Web site for the Kinect Accelerator project.

"We have optimized certain hardware components and made firmware adjustments that better enable PC-centric scenarios," stated Craig Eisler in a recent blog, GM for Kinect, Microsoft. Specifically, Microsoft has enabled a 'near mode' for Kinect, allowing "the depth camera to see objects as close as 50cm in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40cm, one of the most requested [Kinect] features."

Presumably, such a mode could open the door to alternatives for keyboards and mice for navigating PCs, tablets and smartphones. For years, startups such as Canesta designed projection keyboards and other interfaces, creating interesting demos that failed to gain market traction.

In addition, Eisler said Microsoft has shortened "the USB cable [for Kinect] to ensure reliability across a broad range of computers and [included] a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals." Vendors who license Microsoft's Kinect for Windows program will get access to Microsoft's ongoing updates in both speech and human tracking, he added.

Microsoft said more than 200 companies are participating in its Kinect for Windows program. In a recent blog, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates reiterated his long held view that natural user interfaces such as gestures will be crucial in the future of computing.

"Kinect + Windows will give [developers] the tools they need to develop novel solutions for everything from training employees to visualizing data, from configuring a car to managing an assembly line," noted Eisler.

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