Kinect was first released in late 2010 as a hands-free controller for the Xbox 360. The webcam-like motion sensor allows users to use gestures and spoken commands in order to communicate with the device. And although it was initially released as a gamer tool, the implications for its use extend far beyond that.
The Xbox version of Kinect has sold 18 million copies worldwide since its release. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that a new version, Kinect for PC, will be available for purchase on Feb. 1 in the countries of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Whereas the old version of Kinect is available for as low at $129 on Amazon, the retail price for the PC version is $249 for those in the United States. However, where owners of the latter can download the Kinect Software Development Kit in order to enable the Xbox sensor to work with a PC, Microsoft has shared that the new Kinect for Windows sensor is specifically catered to work with PC systems. And although some users may be reluctant to shell out that kind of money, the price tag of $249 is actually a low cost when you consider the possibilities of what Kinect can help do or accomplish.
There are also rumors that Microsoft is teaming up with ASUS to roll out a line of notebooks featuring Windows 8 and Kinect functionality.
One noticeable difference for Kinect users is that they will be able to use their hands and voices to interact with the computer, which could eliminate the need for a keyboard or a mouse. This will likely prompt application developers to begin re-imagining the design and functionality of apps.
Although Kinect is primarily used with video games, its capabilities for use of facial recognition, voice recognition, and 3D scanning enable it to do so much more. These kinds of uses were discovered by hackers and software developers alike; this is part of what prompted Microsoft’s decision to make Kinect available for computers, so developers will be able to harness its power and expand upon its probable uses.
In addition, Kinect can be used in conferences, where using keyboards and mice can sometimes interrupt the flow of a presentation or meeting. Doctors could benefit from Kinect, saving time by using it to access information about a patient or procedure in the middle of operations, as opposed to scrubbing out, finding the information on a separate computer, and scrubbing back in. Students can also benefit from the software, particularly in anatomy-based courses.
Practical applications aside, one company, ImageGraphicsVideo, develops software the utilizes Kinect for a variety of other purposes. The information obtained from Kinect is done using motion sensors and a scanner, which can calculate biometric data about your body, or another object in front of it.
Using Kinect’s capabilities, combined with its own self-developed software, it is able to create 3d models of objects or entire rooms. Another use for this software is to collect measurement data in order to create custom-tailored clothing. And that’s just the beginning.
Using a depth camera and a series of measurements, the company is able to create 3D digital images, which can then be used to analyze information or control processes. With information obtained, the company works to create custom software based on a customer’s specific needs. In other words, the only real limit is simply one’s imagination.