As mentioned back in January, Microsoft sent along the Kinect SDK 2.0 for Tom's Hardware to check out. Rather than send the sensor that's dedicated to the PC (Kinect for Windows), the company instead shipped the model used with the Xbox One. Also included in the bundle was an adapter that connected the Kinect sensor to a Windows 8.1 PC via a USB 3.0 port.
While this didn't raise any red flags, I assumed that the company simply didn't have enough Kinect with Windows sensors on hand to dish out to every website. I instead moved along and did the hands-on without even considering that perhaps Microsoft had retired the Kinect for Windows sensor. After all, the first generation device was slated to be discontinued in 2015, whereas the second model made its debut in October 2014. Retirement wasn't even a consideration for such a "young" sensor.
But that's what has happened; the second generation of Kinect for Windows is no longer in production. The news arrived by way of Michael Fry, Senior Technology Evangelist for Kinect for Windows at Microsoft, who indicated that the team is aiming for simplicity and consistency. That means only one sensor and one SDK for both the Xbox One and Windows PC development.
"Over the past several months, we have seen unprecedented demand from the developer community for Kinect sensors and have experienced difficulty keeping up with requests in some markets," he wrote in a blog. "At the same time, we have seen the developer community respond positively to being able to use the Kinect for Xbox One sensor for Kinect for Windows app development."
He added that the Kinect sensor and the Kinect for Windows sensor are "functionally identical," and that the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 will work exactly the same on both sensors. However, that doesn't mean developers will be forced to purchase the Xbox One Kinect sensor. Developers can still use their current Kinect for Windows v2 hardware and receive support from Microsoft.
Need the Kinect Adapter for Windows? The set can be purchased from Microsoft for $49.99 right here. To use it, customers will need a 64-bit processor with two cores or more. They will also need Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows Embedded 8, 4 GB of RAM, a graphics card that supports DirectX 11 and a USB 3.0 port. I didn't bother trying to use Kinect with a USB 2.0 port, so I can't say what could happen to those without the zippier USB 3.0 connection (extreme lag maybe?).
Want to develop for the Kinect sensor? Microsoft provides a "developer bundle" that crams the Kinect sensor and the adapter for Windows into one package for $199.98. The Kinect sensor by itself retails for $149.99 on the Microsoft Store.