Microsoft Ships Beta Tools to Tie Kinect to Robots

With a new developers kit, designers will be able to create their own robots that use Xbox Kinect as the user interface.
Posted September 19, 2011

Stuart Johnston

Microsoft over the weekend released a beta test suite of tools for linking its robotics software developers kit (SDK) to Microsoft's increasingly popular Kinect 3D games controller.

"This release of the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Robotics Developer Studio 4 (RDS 4) Beta ... has extensive support for the Kinect sensor hardware through the Kinect for Windows SDK, allowing developers to create Kinect-enabled robots in the Visual Simulation Environment and in real life," Larry Larsen, a senior technologist working on Microsoft's Channel 9 developer site, said in a blog posting Sunday.

Also included in RDS 4 is a standardized reference specification to enable developers to build their own Kinect-controlled robots, Larsen added.

Microsoft first delivered the beta SDK for tying Kinect to Windows, enabling developers to create Windows applications that use Kinect as the user interface, in mid-June.

Coupled with the RDS 4 beta, Kinect will enable design of device interfaces -- both real and simulated -- that let the user control applications or devices with his or her hands -- a concept called "natural user interface."

Microsoft executives, including Chairman Bill Gates and Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, have for more than a decade touted the advantages of natural user interfaces to control everything from robot surgical equipment to 3D avatars that can mimic human behaviors.

"Kinect is the first example of this ... of making the computer a lot more like we are," Mundie said in a video released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in late January. "We will be able to get computers to work at our behest, not just on our behalf," he added.

With the spec sheet, Microsoft says that DSR 4 can also be used to create robots that are built on a standardized platform, making software and hardware that conform to the specifications more portable, a current stumbling block.

"For the first time we define a Kinect-based hardware reference platform that can help in the delivery of an affordable and capable robot that will be able to support technologies and scenarios for the consumer audience," a post to the Microsoft Robotics Blog by Stathis Papaefstathiou, a company general manager, said Saturday.

RDS 4 is available for download from Microsoft's robotics site.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Tags: Microsoft, robotics, Xbox, Kinect

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