Kinect has seen a large enthusiast community around it despite the fact that till now it was limited to the XBOX 360. Open source drivers have been written, in so far that the upcoming Linux kernelwill support the device.
Microsoft has only encouraged and embraced this hacking, and awhile back they announced the SDK that has been released today – albeit a little late. The SDK released now is completely free for non-commercial applications, and is intended for Academics and Enthusiasts.
While the Kinect's depth sensing and motion tracking prowess has been developed to make the next generation of games more interactive, its true potential lies beyond just gaming. In the time since the Kinect's release, even before the release of this free SDK for the Kinect, people have been hacking together innovative projects that show the true potential of this technology. It makes the Kinect seem like a worthy even if you don’t like the concept of playing computer games using your body as a controller. The Kinect has been hacked to do everything, from simulating a 'Minority Report' like interface, to helping the blind and rescuing earthquake victims.
Now the Kinect's reach is bound to increase even more thanks to he official SDK. As Anoop Gupta, a scientist at Microsoft Research said, “The Kinect for Windows SDK opens up a world of possibilities to developers who want to unleash the power of Kinect technology on Windows. We can’t wait to see what this community will create as we work together to build more natural, intuitive computing experiences.”
Microsoft is releasing the SDK with support for “Raw Sensor Streams” from the multiple sensors on the Kinect (RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone), “Skeletal Tracking” for up to two people, and “Advanced Audio Capabilities” that will allow developers to identify the sound source, and recognize speech.
The SDK also includes documentation, and is easy to install on Windows 7.
A commercial version of the SDK will also be offered in the future, and Microsoft is probably using this beta release a means to get feedback that can be incorporated before the final release.