As promised back in January, Microsoft is now shipping the Kinect for Windows hardware via distribution partners in twelve launch countries. The suggested retail price for the device will be $249, but Microsoft plans to offer special academic pricing of $149 for Qualified Educational Users later this year. Microsoft has also released the Kinect for Windows SDK (v.0) for developers which can be downloaded here.
"Without many years of intense R&D efforts, including research investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, and deep partnership between our research teams, software teams, hardware teams, manufacturing teams, and games studios, Kinect simply wouldn’t exist," writes Craig Eisler, General Manager of Kinect for Windows. "Shipping Kinect for Windows was another cross-Microsoft effort: not only did the hardware and software teams work closely together to create an integrated solution, but our support, manufacturing, supply chain, reverse logistics, and account teams have all been working hard to prepare for today’s launch."
Since the release of Beta 2, the SDK and runtime now features many improvements including support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer, improved skeletal tracking including the ability for developers to control which user is being tracked by the sensor, Near Mode which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 40 centimeters in front of the device, the addition of the latest Microsoft Speech components, and more.
Eisler said that Microsoft plans to release updates to the SDK and runtime 2 to 3 times per year. In fact, the team is currently working on the next release. "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 adds. "We will also continue to listen to our developer community and business customers for the kinds of features and capabilities they need, as they re-imagine the future of computing using the power of Kinect."
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer officially announced Kinect for Windows' impending release during his final keynote presentation at CES 2012 last month. Recent reports suggest that the company is experimenting with Kinect sensors embedded in mobile devices, but presently the tech is reportedly draining battery charge rather quickly.
With the hardware now becoming available on the market, companies can now begin to deploy their solutions, Eisler said without going into specifics. For those interested in developing for the Windows-based Kinect sensor, you'll need to meet the following hardware and software requirements:
- 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- Dual-core 2.66-GHz or faster processor
- Dedicated USB 2.0 bus
- 2 GB RAM
- A Microsoft Kinect for Windows sensor
- Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express or other Visual Studio 2010 edition
- NET Framework 4.0
- To develop speech-enabled Kinect for Windows Applications, you must install the Microsoft Speech Platform SDK v11