Kinect for Windows arrives with "near mode"

Microsoft defends price of Kinect for Windows

Nicole Kobie
1 Feb 2012

Microsoft today released a Windows PC version of its Kinect gesture controller.

At the moment, the device only appears to be on sale in the US, although a UK launch is expected. In the US, the hardware is priced at $249 on Amazon or via the Microsoft store. The company has yet to get back to us with UK pricing or availability.

Microsoft defended the price compared to the £90 for the Kinect system for Xbox, saying the console version is subsidised by games purchases and Xbox Live subscriptions.

The Windows version, however, requires Microsoft to invest in "creating a platform that is optimised for scenarios beyond the living room," said general manager Greg Eisler, in a post on the Kinect blog.

"We have chosen a hardware-only business model for Kinect for Windows, which means that we will not be charging for the SDK or the runtime; these will be available free to developers and end-users respectively," he added.

The beta license of the Kinect software will continue to work until June 2016, letting developers keep using it with Kinect for Xbox 360 hardware. However, Microsoft said developers must use the new hardware and SDK to be able to license apps.

"Although you will be able to download the SDK and use it with an existing Kinect for Xbox 360 for your own, personal development purposes, we recommend using Kinect for Windows sensor in your Kinect for Windows application development, as it is the only sensor optimised for this use," the company said in its FAQs.

As well, the full version includes new features over the beta, such as a "near mode" to make the gesture controls work as close as 40cm in front of the sensor. Kinect for Windows also includes better speech and audio, and improved "skeletal tracking" to make it easier for the sensor to monitor different users.

Windows 8 support

The system is supported on Windows 7, the Windows 8 developer preview, and Windows Embedded-based devices, Eisler added.

"We are building the Kinect for Windows platform in a way that will allow other companies to integrate Kinect into their offerings and we have invested in an approach that allows them to develop in ways that are dependable and scalable," he said, suggesting Kinect could be directly embedded into devices - following reports of an Asus laptop featuring the technology built in.

Microsoft said it will also release a version under academic pricing for $149 later this year.

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