Will Kinect Gain Windows Connections Soon?

A rumors site says Microsoft is readying a developer’s kit and device drivers to enable its suddenly popular game controller to hook into Windows, and not just Xbox 360.

Two weeks after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted that the company may soon come out with a way to integrate its hit Kinect controller-less game controller to Windows PCs, a popular tech rumors site reported that its sources say to watch for device drivers and a software developers kit (SDK) for Kinect perhaps in the near future.

WinRumors said this week that the SDK and device drivers are underway already.

"Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is set to unveil driver support and an SDK in the coming months and will allow third-party developers to create titles that utilize the Kinect sensor when plugged into a PC," the tech site said.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington student newspaper, The Daily, reported that electrical engineering graduate students at the school figured out a way to use Microsoft's Kinect to provide force feedback for surgeons doing surgical robotics.

Kinect uses sensors to enable players to control games with movements and gestures using a small unit equipped with set of sensors to detect their motions in three dimensions. The controller, which only works with the Xbox 360 game console, began shipping in early November.

By many measures, the controller has been a hit.

Microsoft planned to sell 5 million Kinects during the holiday sales season but, instead, sold 8 million. Granted that those are units sold into the channel and not necessarily all sold to end users, the numbers are significant.

During an interview with the BBC at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, Ballmer was asked whether Microsoft is working on a Kinect link up to PCs.

"We'll support that in a formal way in the right time and, when we've got an announcement to make, we'll make it," Ballmer told the interviewer.

In fact, Microsoft executives have already said that they plan to link Kinect into Windows, and not just for games. They are already working on software to link Kinect into even the company's enterprise unified messaging solution, known as Lync 2010.

At Lync 2010's launch in late November, Chris Capossela, senior vice president of the Office Division, said nearly as much.

"[We] are working on a piece of software [for Lync] called Video Kinect which will be delivered to all Kinect [users] as a seamless update," Capossela told partners attending Lync 2010's rollout.

Additionally, last fall Microsoft announced it had bought 3D gesture sensing technology firm Canesta.

Microsoft almost has no choice because many hacks to connect Kinect to Windows 7 PCs, and Apple Macs, have already surfaced. Better do its own links rather than let third parties do it.

Microsoft still isn't talking specifics about links to Windows, though.

"At this time we have no information to share," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

WinRumors also said that Kinect support in Windows 8 is planned.

One point in Kinect's favor: the unit is inexpensive -- retailing for around $150.

That also helped make it attractive to the UW students, according to The Daily's story. Similar systems built especially for such purposes can cost as much as $50,000, the article said.

"For robotics-assisted surgeries, the surgeon has no sense of touch right now," the student newspaper quoted Howard Chizeck, UW professor of electrical engineering, as saying. "What we're doing is using that sense of touch to give information to the surgeon, like 'You don’t want to go here.'"

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




Tags: Microsoft, Windows 7, Xbox, gaming PC, Kinect


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