In a move that was widely rumored, Microsoft said the Kinect for Windows SDK will allow third-party developers to create software titles that use a Kinect motion sensor plugged directly into a Windows PC. This noncommercial "starter version" SDK will give users access to deep Kinect system information such as audio, system application-programming interfaces, and direct control of the Kinect sensor, Microsoft said. The company also plans to release a commercial version at a later date.
"Microsoft's investments in natural user interfaces are vital to our long-term vision of creating computers that are intuitive to use and able to do far more for us," Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, said in the company's announcement. "The fruits of these research investments are manifesting across many of our products, Kinect for Xbox 360 among them."
Since its official launch last November, hackers have found all sorts of creative ways to put the sensor bar's 3D imaging capabilities to good use. Among them: tweaks that turn the sensor bar into a 3D camera, allow for multitouch photo manipulation without the need for a touch screen, and make it possible to create midair 3D doodles.
Microsoft initially reacted negatively to these "hacks," but then it seemed to warm up to the idea, explaining that the Kinect was designed to be an open platform. In response to a $3,000 challenge last year by the open-source hardware outfit Adafruit Industries to come up with a hardware hack of the Kinect, Microsoft had said it did not "condone" such behavior.
When asked at this year's Consumer Electronics Show whether Microsoft would allow the ability to plug a Kinect into a PC, CEO Steve Ballmer said the company would formally support it at the right time, although his timing was a little vague.