Microsoft Thursday began shipping the first beta software developers kit (SDK) to tie its Kinect 3D game controller to Windows 7, in a move meant to open up synergies between its dominant PC operating system and what it calls "natural user interface" or NUI.
Among the potential applications of linking Kinect -- which the company claims is the best-selling consumer electronics device in history -- with Windows are better ways to interface with everything from games to medical devices to automobiles.
Anoop Gupta, a distinguished engineer with Microsoft Research (MSR), which co-developed the Kinect, announced the availability of the beta SDK for download via a webcast on the company's Channel 9 Web channel for developers.
"The SDK is now available to reveal the power of Kinect for Windows [making] your body the controller," Gupta said.
Included in the SDK are drivers and application programming interfaces (API), as well as device interfaces, more than a hundred pages of documentation, sample code, and additional resources.
"The SDK [provides] access to raw data streams from the [Kinect's] depth sensor, color camera sensor, and four-element microphone array, [as well as] skeletal tracking -- the capability to track the skeleton image of one or two people moving within the Kinect field of view ... to create gesture-driven applications," according to Microsoft statements.
Kinect, which provides sensors for processing gestural and other movement data in three-dimensions in order to enable multiple players to control Xbox 360 games without the need for a handheld controller, debuted last fall and was an immediate hit with consumers. During the holiday shopping season, the company claimed to have sold more than eight million units in its first 60 days on the market.
However, developers soon saw possibilities for other Kinect uses, including in surgical applications.
In fact, Microsoft, early on, said it would provide links between Kinect and Microsoft Lync, the company's unified communications server.
In February, Microsoft officials said they were working on a "noncommercial" SDK for university and other not-for-profit developers with the plan to release it this spring.
Indeed, while the current beta SDK is for noncommercial use only, at some point Microsoft has the "intent" to make a commercial version available, Gupta said.