Kinect hits Windows 8 - and faces in-house rival

Kinect

Kinect for Windows SDK updated with support for Windows 8 and new sensing capabilities, as an internal rival emerges

Microsoft's Kinect for Windows SDK has been updated to include support for Windows 8, bringing the prospect of gesture controls for the new OS a step closer.

The updated SDK includes a barrage of new features, but perhaps the most interesting development is the support for Microsoft's next-generation OS.

A post on the Kinect for Windows Blog states that "you can develop a Kinect for Windows solution for Windows 8 desktop applications". The blog makes no mention of the new Modern-style apps, but they are already optimised for touch control.

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The revamped SDK also brings a host of new motion sensing features. Developers can now get access to data from the three-axis accelerometer, allowing them to detect the sensor's orientation.

The new SDK extends the range from which Kinect can detect motion to beyond four meters, although Microsoft warns that such data is "beyond the tested and certified ranges and is therefore lower accuracy".

Kinect for Windows applications can also access infrared data for the first time. "This means developers can use the infrared stream in many scenarios, such as calibrating other colour cameras to the depth sensor or capturing grayscale images in low-light situations," the blog states.

Microsoft says access to this combination of sensors will open up new possibilities for the device on Windows, which are currently focused on users within businesses rather than the home. "Whole new scenarios open up, such as monitoring manufacturing processes with extended-range depth data," the blog claims.

"Building solutions that work in low-light settings becomes a reality with IR stream exposure, such as in theatres and light-controlled museums. And developers can tailor applications to work in different environments with the numerous colour camera settings, which enhance an application's ability to work perfectly for end users."

Wrist watch

Meanwhile, Kinect is facing competition from within Microsoft itself.

A team of researchers from the UK, including members of Microsoft's Cambridge labs, has developed a wrist sensor that can accurately model the wearer's hands in 3D. Such systems normally rely on the user wearing so-called "data gloves" to map hand movement.

"The Digits sensor doesn’t rely on external infrastructure, which means users are not bound to a fixed space," says Microsoft researcher David Kim. "They can interact while moving from room to room or running down the street. This finally takes 3D interaction outside the living room."

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The system uses an infrared camera, laser line projector and an inertial-measurement unit (among other things) to capture the movement of the hand, although the team admits that the off-the-shelf hardware used to build the wrist-mounted detector is currently too bulky.

Aside from being used to control smartphones and tablets, the device could also compete with, or even complement, the Kinect controller. Kinect doesn't currently support finger tracking, so the two devices could be combined to deliver an even more precise means of controlling games or other applications.

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