Microsoft Seeks To Jumpstart Kinect Application Development With Free SDK

While Kinect has boosted sales of Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming system, the new game controller is widely seen as having a broad range of potential applications in such areas as healthcare, education and security.

Kinect combines motion-sensing, voice recognition and machine-learning capabilities in one natural user interface system. Microsoft executives in the past have expressed interest in seeing what new kinds of applications outside developers can come up with that leverage the Kinect technology.

The Kinect for Windows SDK is being developed by Microsoft Research, in collaboration with the company's Interactive Entertainment Business, and will be released this spring as a free download, according to a blog posted Monday by Steve Clayton, Microsoft director of cloud strategy.

The SDK "will give academic researchers and enthusiasts access to key pieces of the Kinect system – such as the audio technology, system application programming interfaces, and direct control of the Kinect sensor itself," Clayton wrote.

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The blog pointed to work at the University of Washington's Biorobotics Lab that's combining Kinect with commercially available technology to advance the field of robotic surgery.

Last year Alex Kipman, Microsoft director of incubation for Xbox, said the company intentionally wrote an open-source PC driver with an unprotected USB connection that programmers could use to develop applications that tap into Kinect data.

"Our hope is that this SDK will ignite further creativity in an already vibrant ecosystem of enthusiasts. The possibilities are endless," Clayton said. "Natural and intuitive technologies such as Kinect can be more than just a great platform for gaming and entertainment. They open up enormous opportunities across a wide variety of scenarios, including addressing societal issues in areas such as healthcare and education."