Microsoft has now released the Kinect SDK Beta 2 which provides raw sensor access and improved skeletal tracking.
It seems to have been so long since the first beta of the Kinect SDK came out that some might have been thinking that it was close to final release. What more could Microsoft do? The answer is in Beta 2 of the SDK which is ready for download now. This is still licenced for hobby/non-commercial use, but it must be another step on the road to the full commercial version which is promised for next year.
So what is new?
The biggest new feature is the access to the raw data streams from the depth sensor, the color camera and the microphone array. To make much use of any of these in anything other than a fairly simply way is going to require a great deal of work and research so some how I'm not convinced that this is going to be a much explored area of the API - but I could be very wrong!
Probably the change that is going to have the biggest effect is the improved skeletal tracking system. This is now faster, the documentation claims a 20% speedup, and it is more accurate. The speedup is due to the use of multi-threading. Now the system can track more precisely and identify limbs faster. If you are working with two Kinects you can now select which one is doing skeletal tracking but only one of them can be doing tracking at any time. Unfortunately you can still only track two people at a time and you can't specify which two from a group.
Using the audio is also easier because you don't need to use a separate thread to access the KinectAudioSource.
One odd new feature is that you can now use the SDK with the Windows 8 preview - as a desktop app of course. More important is the ability to build 64-bit applications as well as 32-bit ones.
Download and more information from the new Windows Kinect site kinectforwindows.org
You can also download the SDK from the Microsoft Download site.
There is also a new blog site Kinect for Windows Blog
Getting started with Microsoft Kinect SDK
All About Kinect
Kinect goes self aware - a warning we think it's funny and something every Kinect programmer should view before proceeding to create something they regret!
Avatar Kinect - a holodeck replacement
Kinect augmented reality x-ray (video)
3D Gesture Input
How Kinect tracks people
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