The Kinect 2 Revolution
The Kinect 2 Revolution
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Thursday, 27 June 2013

There's some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that Windows Kinect 2 won't be around until 2014; the good news is that a select few might be allowed to play with it early for $399. As it is almost as much a revolution as the Kinect 1, it might be worth it. 



The new Kinect 2 is much better than the original in terms of resolution and the AI software that is packed along with it. You might think that resolution is just an evolutionary change - over time resolution increases - but for a depth camera resolution fundamentally alters what you can do with it. If you think that the apps that were produced using the Kinext 1 were amazing you can look forward to much more with the new device. The increased resolution means that it is possible to detect finer gestures, build more accurate models and merge all this with hi-res video. 

The news from Build is that as speculated in a previous news item the XBox One version of the Kinect 2 will not work with the PC. The reason is that that it has a custom interface. The original Kinect also used a custom connector but to work with older xBoxes it also came with a USB adaptor. It was this adaptor that made it possible to hack the Kinect to work with the PC and eventually lead to Microsoft releasing its own Windows version of the Kinect and an SDK. The Kinect 2 has no reason to be backward compatible and it seems that Microsoft has used this to build a better and more secure connector. This doesn't mean that it isn't hackable only more difficult to hack. 

The Kinect for Windows 2 device isn't going to be available until some time next year. if you want to get a head start then you can apply for one of the very few places in the developer kit program. You have to sign up by July 31st and if you are lucky enough to be accepted the $399 fee will be taken in August when the beta ships. If the charge is any indication of the price of the final Kinect 2 for Windows then this will be a big price hike and perhaps a motivation for people to see if they can get the XBox One Kinect working with the PC. 



The final piece fo good news is that the SDK will be updated in September with three big new features: 

  • The ability to extract the user from the background in real time
  • The ability to develop Kinect for Windows desktop applications by using HTML5/JavaScript
  • Enhancements to Kinect Fusion, including capture of color data and improvements to tracking robustness and accuracy

The previous web browser support for Kinect was very unstable. The ability to work with JavaScript and Kinect is perhaps more sensible than you might guess. Given that your choices of language to develop Kinect applications are currently C++ or C# adding JavaScript opens up new possibilities. C# is easy to use but its 3D facilities are limited and not likely to get any better given Microsoft's down playing of .NET. JavaScript on the other hand is easy to use and it has access to good 3D facilities with the help of WebGL. It might turn out to be the language of choice for rapid prototyping of Kinect applications.  

No word about additional features to support the Kinect 2 but presumably the higher resolutions will be a feature.




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