When Microsoft first launched its Kinect 3D gesture-driven games controller for its Xbox 360 console, industry veterans pointed to its potential application for enabling users to manipulate images in thin air to control computers.
At the time, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) executives hinted there could be a Kinect interface to Windows in the not distant future.
Now, that vision of a gesture-driven user interface for Windows has the beginnings of a timetable.
"This morning, Craig [Mundie, Microsofts chief research and strategy officer] and Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), announced plans to release a non-commercial Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit, or SDK, this spring," Microsoft editor Steve Clayton wrote on the company blog on Monday.
"It will give academic researchers and enthusiasts access to key pieces of the Kinect system -- such as the audio technology, system application programming interfaces and direct control of the Kinect sensor itself," Clayton said.
Although, at least initially, the SDK will only be available for academic and non-commercial applications, Microsoft officials have for years predicted the growth of such types of interfaces in serious business applications.
Additionally, Microsoft said it has plans to allow commercial applications that use Kinect with Windows, according to a post on Tech Flash blog about Microsoft.
In fact, senior executives, including Chairman Bill Gates, have talked about making what's referred to as "natural user interface," or NUI, the foundation of future computer interfaces in years to come. That category includes voice response and recognition, as well as visual recognition.
Last month, for instance, engineering students at the University of Washington showed off how they had adapted Kinect to provide force feedback to doctors working with robotic surgical instruments.
As a matter of fact, Microsoft has already signaled that it plans to link Kinect with Windows.
In late November, company officials said that they were working to build links between the new Lync 2010 unified communications server, which provides email, instant messaging, video and audio conferencing, and voice and video, and Kinect with what it calls Video Kinect. Lync 2010 replaces the Office Communications Server, and is a key piece of Microsoft's unified communications strategy for businesses.
"As breakthrough technologies like these reach scale, the resulting creativity and invention will open up a whole new world of possibilities for computing," Mundie said in a statement.