Are you a developer and want to be the first to get your hands on the next-generation Kinect for Windows sensor? You're in luck, as Microsoft has thrown open the doors for pre-orders until July 31, 2013 at 9 AM Pacific Time. You'll need $399 USD (or equivalent) to gain access and a little bit of luck, as Microsoft is only offering a limited number of spots.
According to the listing, the program provides direct access to the Kinect for Windows engineering team via a private forum and exclusive webcasts, early SDK access (alpha, beta, and any updates along the way to release), and private access to all API and sample documentation. Developers will also receive a pre-release (alpha) sensor, and then later the final, released sensor at launch.
Successful applicants will be notified by Microsoft starting August.
Microsoft introduced the next-generation Kinect for Windows at the end of May, revealing that the motion sensor will not be available for retail until 2014. Bob Heddle, Director of Kinect for Windows, said that it's being developed alongside the Xbox One's Kinect on a shared set of technologies. It will provide a higher fidelity than the previous version, an expanded field of view, improved skeletal tracking, and new active IR capabilities.
"The new sensor includes a high-definition (HD) color camera as well as a new noise-isolating multi-microphone array that filters ambient sounds to recognize natural speaking voices even in crowded rooms," he said. "Also included is Microsoft's proprietary Time-of-Flight technology, which measures the time it takes individual photons to rebound off an object or person to create unprecedented accuracy and precision. All of this means that the new sensor recognizes precise motions and details, such as slight wrist rotation, body position, and even the wrinkles in your clothes."
The improved skeletal tracking means the sensor can track more points on the human body than with the first-generation product. This not only allows for more accurate skeletal tracking, but opens up a range of new scenarios. In a one-on-one demonstration during E3, Xbox One Engineering Manager Jeff Henshaw said that the new Kinect can even use the player's spine as another thumbstick on a controller.
"When developers go to write this," he said, referring to the ability to dodge or bank a car in a game by merely leaning on the couch, "they actually see a third thumbstick even if the controller only has two. Programmatically, they interface with it as if it were an actual thumbstick."
Excited over the next-gen Kinect yet? If you're a developer on the PC, now is the time to apply for a pass into Microsoft's exclusive Kinect for Windows club. Oh, and good luck.