Microsoft Announces Kinect SDK: Why This is the Future of Windows
Today at the Microsoft Mix event, an annual showcase of its latest web and mobile technologies, Microsoft announced an SDK (software development kit) for its motion-controlled gaming system Kinect. After launching in November 2010 on the Xbox, Kinect became the fastest selling electronic device ever last year – eclipsing the iPad in units sold. News of the Kinect SDK for Windows first came out in January and today Microsoft announced that will be released in spring. The SDK will enable third party software to hook into Kinect – in other words, Kinect becomes a platform.
Nobody can accurately predict what apps will successfully use Kinect technology, but Microsoft showed a glimpse of the possibilities today with a Kinect-controlled armchair. What’s most intriguing though is the probability that Kinect will become integrated into Microsoft’s Windows OS and lead to the Next Big Thing in web user experience.
It’s easy to dismiss the Kinect armchair as a gimmick. Also, do we really need a chair that makes us even more lazy? Cue our future selves, as depicted in the Disney-Pixar movie Wall-E. But the technology behind the chair is really intriguing.
We’re currently running a series about the evolution of the user experience in the post-PC world. The touchscreen is the primary user interface for a lot of these developments, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone and other smartphones that came after it. The Kinect SDK opens up the possibility that the next wave of innovation in user experience could come from motion controls, including gestures and sensors. Microsoft recently released details of “the guts” of Kinect technology, which shows just how sophisticated the technology is.
Kinect could well become an integral part of the Windows Operating System in the near future. Gesture controls will likely become as important as mouse controls in Windows. Indeed, at some point they will probably usurp the mouse. Anyone who’s seen Minority Report can easily visualize that.
At the very least, Kinect will be an important part of the Internet of Things in the near future. Imagine controlling the Internet-connected devices in your house – which soon will be everything from your fridge to your TV – using gestures. This is the kind of future that the Kinect SDK could eventually bring to reality. Developers have already been experimenting with motion-controlled concepts, so the SDK will make that exploration even easier.
It’s important to note, however, that when Microsoft releases the Kinect SDK in spring, it will be restricted to use on non-commercial applications only. Also it will only run on Windows 7, the latest version of the Windows OS. So, initially at least, commercial and non-Windows apps cannot be created.
Microsoft is likely working out a way to license the technology, which may well be as a part of the next major Windows OS release. It obviously wants to make money from the Kinect technology, so releasing it on a non-commercial basis buys them some time to work out how to do that.
Let us know in the comments any ideas that you have for using the Kinect SDK.