The Kinect for Windows has launched on the target date of February 1, 2012. Equally important as the new hardware is its SDK version 1 which is free to download.
Spot on its predicted date, Microsoft has launched Kinect for Windows. You should now be able to buy the hardware for $249 in the twelve launch countries. You will have to wait a little longer if you want to take advantage of the special academic price of $149.
Equally important is the release of version 1 of the SDK. The new features include:
Support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer
Improved skeletal tracking, including the ability for developers to control which user is being tracked by the sensor
Near Mode for the new Kinect for Windows hardware, which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 40 centimeters in front of the device
The latest Microsoft Speech components (V11) are now included as part of the SDK and runtime installer
Improved “far-talk” acoustic model that increases speech recognition accuracy
A commercial-ready installer which can be included in an application’s set-up program, making it easy to install the Kinect for Windows runtime and driver components for end-user deployments.
There are also many claimed improvements to the API and stability of the drivers.
The good news is that it seems to work well with the Kinect for the XBox. The bad news is that the SDK has enough changes to require modification to any programs you have written using the beta. Some many of the changes are simply changes to the namespaces and are easy to fix. There are also some deeper changes in the way that the Kinect is detected and initialized. There is a section in the help that explains the changes but it isn't easy to follow. Our own series Getting started with Microsoft Kinect SDK will be updated to the new SDK very soon.
As important is the new freedom to actually use any Kinect applications you develop for real. You don't need a licence as Microsoft is making its profits on the sale of the Kinect for Windows devices that are needed to make your app work.