Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows V2 will officially go on sale July 15, although pre-orders are already available through the company’s online store. A wider release has been set for later this year. The latest piece of next-generation technology has a hefty price tag of $199, which is half the cost of an Xbox One.
Internal teams at Microsoft teamed up with Israeli 3-D-sensing and recognition technology company PrimeSense to create the first version of the motion-sensing device, which was originally code-named “Project Natal.” According to developers, the latest iteration has been greatly improved, and features the abilities to capture full-HD video and to shift processing tasks to the PC’s graphics processing unit rather than its CPU. The second-generation device also offers improved finger tracking, better skeletal tracking, a higher fidelity sensor, a larger field of vision and a reduced latency.
The Xbox One gaming console originally came with a Kinect device and cost $500. However, once the Kinect was removed, the console’s price dropped to $400, leading many to assume that the stand-alone Kinect V2 for Windows would only cost approximately $100. Microsoft has yet to release a stand-alone Kinect for Xbox One.
Another complication with the Kinect V2 sale date of July 15 is the fact that the $199 price tag will only be for the device itself. In order to use it for software development, which is the primary market for the device, consumers will also have to track down the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) 2.0, which the company notes is licensed separately.
While a number of games use the Kinect, only a few Microsoft-exclusive titles appear to be planning to use the device in the future. However, it has become very popular in the field of software development. The device sparked the imagination of developers across the globe, who tinkered with it to create a wide range of novel applications. The company has said that the latest version of the peripheral offers more of the responsiveness and precision needed to develop interactive voice-based and gesture-based applications.
Artists have used the Kinect as a tool for creating immersive installations, while musicians have done likewise in visualizing live music. One hacker used it to create “optical camouflage,” a limited on-camera invisibility. On a more practical note, a team of engineers at MIT have used the Kinect to develop high-speed holographic video technology, bringing the science-fiction concept of holographic communication one step closer to reality.
Developers have also used the Kinect for several medical applications. Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development are using the device to identify possible cases of autism spectrum disorder. Japanese company NSK and Tokyo’s University of Electro-Communications used the Kinect to develop a robotic guide dog for helping the visually impaired navigate the world around them. The robot speaks to the user in a digitized female voice and uses wheels to travel around flat surfaces, but is also capable of climbing stairs.
The Kinect has also found a home among archeologists and ethnographers. Frank Weaver, a Florida-based documentary filmmaker, used the device to preserve the rock carvings of the indigenous Panambi’y tribe in Weaver’s home country of Paraguay. Similarly, computer scientists from the University of California-San Diego in 2011 provided archaeologists with a modified Kinect for use as a 3D scanner at a dig in Jordan.
Microsoft is hoping that the Kinect V2 will spark a similar wave of ingenuity when the peripheral goes on sale July 15. The cost of the device, however, may rank higher than its capabilities on software developers’ list of concerns.
By Yitzchak Besser