Microsoft in February announced the release of the software developers kit – SDK – for their now ubiquitous hands free controller, the Kinect. This is the part of the Kinects software that lets clever programs use its various functions. The kit itself won’t be released till September but the release does open the Kinect up to all developers. Officially allowing anyone to build the Kinects functions into any software. Write a game and want to allow players to use the Kinect to play, use the SDK to develop that part of the game’s code.
While not all of us are ready to start waving our arms around to change channels the SDK will allow experimental development to be done officially and released as a product, no one wants to invest in a hacking idea. This will also have the effect of legitimize all of the hacking work done so far. The technical documentation will be available in the kit, removing any guess-work and allowing even more imaginative uses for the Kinect. There are already teams working on visually controlled surgical robots, visual aids for the blind and new games that use the Kinect.
The Kinect is atually a really simple device used cleverly, it uses a triple camera system to estimate distance and movement of any objects in its field of vision. In effect an algorithm run on the computer looks at the differences between the images of the three cameras.
Since the Kinects release it has broken sales records and spawned an entire hacking community in months. The unlimited nature of the device has made a lot of technoids curious. Over 10 million Kinects have been sold since it’s release in November 2010, making it one of the fastest selling gaming devices ever.
The release of the SDK also heralds the arrival of the Kinect into the PC world. At the moment the Kinect is officially only available of the X-Box 360. The fact it is being used at all on PC’s and Macs, Playstation 3′s to for that matter, all this is down to the creative hacking in the Kinect community.
The dangers of the Kinect are already becoming apparent. Recently a lady playing on Dance Central started to get hot and sweaty jumping around in the game so she stripped off to continue playing in comfort. Only to find out later on that Dance Central will take your picture from time to time and include the happy snaps in with your trophies and rewards. The incident came to everyone’s attention when the player appeared on the forums asking for advice on removing the pictures. The Kinect has also been extensively tested to ensure it works while naked – not safe for work video – , no issues discovered so far.
So will we see a whole new generation of software developers waving their arms about madly ? Initially all of the development work will be done in traditional ways using keyboards but eventually this may change. As the knowledge about motion interfaces like the Kinect grows we may start applying those lesson to the development tools themselves. So even developing games on the Kinect would be done Minority Report style.
With so much work going on in the Kinect community and at Microsoft it should be a good year for the Kinect. Once it’s fully running wild on the PC some very interesting things are going to be developed.
More information at Microsoft