Be the mouse: Kinect for Windows has arrived

Microsoft's Kinect for Windows has arrived, and the motion-sensor peripheral, originally created for the Xbox 360, could change the way we interact with computers forever.

The software development kit (SDK) and runtime for Kinect for Windows Version 1.0 can be downloaded here. And Kinect for Windows hardware began shipping Feb. 1 from Microsoft partners in 12 countries: the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Australia and Spain.


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Kinect for Windows lets users control their PCs using the same gesture and voice commands used with Kinect for Xbox, but at a closer range. The sensor will retail for $249, which includes access to support and software updates, as well as a one-year warranty. Teachers, students and educational institutions that meet the requirements of Microsoft's "Qualified Educational Users" program will be able to purchase it for $149 later this year, according to a blog post by Craig Eisler, Kinect for Windows general manager.

The Kinect for Windows SDK includes drivers for Windows 7, Windows Embedded Standard 7 and Windows 8 developer preview desktop apps. It supports applications built with C++, C# or VB. Previous betas of the SDK were limited to noncommercial app development, but Feb. 1 release opens the SDK to developers who want to sell their applications. Microsoft expects to update the SDK and runtime two to three times a year, Eisler said, adding that the next release is already in the works.

"We are continuing to invest in programs like our Testing and Adoption Program and the Kinect Accelerator, and will work to create new programs in the future to help support our developer and partner ecosystem," Eisler said.

Beta 1 of the SDK was released last summer, followed by Beta 2 in November. Since then, Microsoft says it has made several enhancements for the final version, including improved speech-recognition accuracy, better skeletal tracking, support for up to four Kinect sensors per computer, and the ability to accurately track objects as close as 40 centimeters away from the computer screen. More details can be found in this Kinect for Windows info page.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer promised a Feb. 1 launch date for Kinect for Windows at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES). At the time, he said that more than 200 companies were already working to develop apps for the product. Today, Microsoft says that number has grown to more than 300.

Ballmer also indicated at CES that Kinect for Windows is one component of Microsoft's larger plan to unify the user interfaces of its products.

"Really, the ability for the computer to see you, to recognize you, to hear you, it really sparked imagination. And just as Kinect revolutionized entertainment, we'll see it revolutionize other industries: education, health care and many, many more," Ballmer said.

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