Monday Microsoft announced that it's releasing an official software development kit (SDK) for creating Kinect-based applications on Windows PCs this spring. The new toolset essentially supports development by enthusiasts and academic researchers, and cannot be used by developers for commercial products.
"This SDK will be a starter kit to make it simpler for the academic research and enthusiast communities to create rich natural user interfaces using Kinect technology," said Rob Knies of Microsoft Research. "The SDK will give users access to deep Kinect system information such as audio, system application-programming interfaces, and direct control of the Kinect sensor."
News of the new SDK follows recent reports that Microsoft had no plans to release a toolkit for Kinect development on the PC. However the sudden about-face may be due to the growing homebrew community that has found numerous ways to make use of the motion-sensing device, from controlling Mario in Super Mario Bros to surgeons manipulating 3D CT images in midair.
"The community that has blossomed since the launch of Kinect for Xbox 360 in November shows the breadth of invention and depth of imagination possible when people have access to ground-breaking technology," said Microsoft's Steve Clayton. "Already, researchers, academics and enthusiasts are thinking through what’s next in natural and intuitive technology."
Following Microsoft’s official announcement, former core member Johnny Lee from the Kinect team admitted that he was the mastermind behind AdaFruit Industries' Kinect hacking contest, claiming it was the best $3000 he had ever spent.
"Back in the late Summer of 2010, trying to argue for the most basic level of PC support for Kinect from within Microsoft, to my immense disappointment, turned out to be really grinding against the corporate grain at the time (for many reasons I won't enumerate here)," he said. "When my frustration peaked, I decided to approach AdaFruit to put on the Open Kinect contest. For obvious reasons, I couldn't run the contest myself. Besides, Phil and Limor did a phenomenal job, much better than I could have done. Without a doubt, the contest had a significant impact in raising awareness about the potential for the Kinect outside of Xbox gaming both inside and outside the company."
In collaboration with IEB, Microsoft Research will release a version of the SDK for commercial use at a later, unspecified date. The "lite" version set for a release this spring will be free to download and use.