Microsoft on Thursday released a beta version of a software development kit that lets hobbyists build applications for the Kinect sensor.
Microsoft launched the Kinect last year in conjunction with the Xbox 360 gaming console to let people play games without a controller. Kinect senses user movements so people control games by waving their arms and moving their bodies.
Now, developers can build applications that use the Kinect on PCs running Windows 7. The SDK is available only for noncommercial use, but Microsoft said it plans to release a commercial package in the future.
The SDK offers developers access to the raw streams from sensors in the Kinect including the depth sensor, color camera sensor and the microphone array.
Developers will also be able to track the skeleton image of one or two people moving in view of the Kinect for the creation of gesture-driven applications.
The SDK includes audio features such as noise suppression and echo cancellation. Developers will be able to access beam formation technology to identify the source of sounds. They'll also be able to access the Windows speech recognition API (application programming interface).
Developers can write using C#, C++ and any .Net language.
To kick off the launch, Microsoft invited a group of academic and professional developers to create applications over the past 24 hours using the new SDK. The company is showing off some of the new apps. One includes a game that a user can play at home with Kinect in conjunction with someone remotely using their Windows Phone 7.
Another application lets the user conduct an orchestra using hand gestures and a visual map of the instruments on stage. The conductor can control the tempo and volume of the music using gestures.
Microsoft is showing live demos of the applications and discussing the SDK online for part of the day on Thursday.
Microsoft thinks that releasing the SDK will enable a wide array of applications in many fields including entertainment, robotics, health care, education and automotive. "The possibilities are really endless," said Anoop Gupta, distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research.
After Microsoft launched Kinect some people began hacking into it to develop their own applications. Microsoft initially resisted those efforts, saying it would work to keep Kinect closed. But it quickly relented and said it would release an SDK to let people develop applications using the device.