Microsoft Opens Preorders For Kinect 2.0 For Windows
Following in the footsteps of the original Kinect Sensor for Xbox 360, Microsoft has started taking preorders on their online store for the Xbox One's Kinect Sensor for Windows PCs (referred to as Kinect 2.0). The new Kinect 2.0 for PC will launch on July 15th for $199.99. A better price compared to the original Kinect which sells for $149 if you are a student and costs $249 for everyone else.
Along with the fairly steep price tag, the Kinect will also not ship with any software. The device will however support the newest version of the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) which must be licensed separately. This new version of the SDK will be available as a public beta this month. These two things seem to tell us that the device release is not really meant for us gamers but is geared more towards developers.
But why should we care?
Say what you will about the Kinect's usefulness as a gaming device, but its application as a device to be used as a real world tool is staggering. The most promising of these applications is in the medical field. Back in November or 2013 Microsoft Research Cambridge hosted a workshop for Body Tracking in Healthcare. This workshop celebrated the completion of a two-year collaboration between Microsoft Research Cambridge and Lancaster University during which they explored the use of touchless interactions in surgical settings. These interactions allowed images to be viewed, controlled, and manipulated without physical contact via the Kinect Sensor. It would allow surgeons to navigate through and manipulate X-rays and scans during operations without having to touch the non-sterile surfaces of a mouse and keyboard. Other potential medical uses for the Kinect involve evaluating the damage caused by strokes and assisting in diagnosing disorders of the brain and nervous system including Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis.
There are other uses that have been and are currently being researched for the sensor as well. These include retail, manufacturing, education, advertising and marketing.
- Retail - Kinect is a handy way to try thing on virtually such as glasses or cloths. It also can allow you to browse kiosks and select products.
- Manufacturing - As production floors become more high-tech, Kinect could be utilized to control the robots on the manufacturing floor. Some of these aspects are already under testing at Toyota.
- Education - There are many ways the Kinect can be used in physical education or sports training but also it could be used in the classroom to make demonstrations and discussions more interactive.
- Advertising and Marketing - An obvious use for the Kinect here would be to pair it with PowerPoint presentations to make them more fluid and dynamic. It could also be used to make public advertising displays interactive.
Is it worth upgrading from the original?
The difference that the Kinect 2.0 will offer are greater overall precision, better responsiveness and it will accelerate the development of voice and gesture experiences on computers. The Kinect 2.0 will include the following features;
- Depth Sensing - With a higher depth fidelity and a significantly improved noise floor, the Kinect 2.0 Sensor gives you improved 3D visualization, improved ability to see smaller objects and all objects more clearly, and improves the stability of skeletal tracking.
- 1080p HD Video - Full, beautiful 1080p video allows for a broad range of powerful scenarios. In addition to improving video communications and video analytics applications, this provides a great input on which to build high-quality, augmented reality scenarios, or simply capture crisp still images.
- Wider/Expanded Field of View - The expanded field of view enables a large area of a scene to be captured by the camera. As a result, users can be closer to the camera and still be in view and the camera is effective over a larger total area. Although in some cases, an increased field of view can reduce the sharpness of the image, the increased fidelity of the Kinect 2,0 Sensor's camera produces increased fidelity of the images and a larger field of view.
- Improved Skeletal Tracking - The enhanced fidelity of the depth camera, combined with the improvements in the software, have led to a number of key improvements in skeletal tracking. In addition to now tracking as many a six complete skeletons (compared to two with the original sensor), and tracking 25 joints per person (as compared to 20 with the original sensor), the tracked positions are more anatomically correct and stable. This enables and simplifies many scenarios, including more accurate body position evaluation, crisper interactions and more bystander involvement in interactive scenarios.
- New Active IR - In addition to allowing the Kinect 2.0 Sensor to see in the dark, the new infrared (IR) capabilities produce a lighting independent view, which make machine learning or computer-vision-based tasks much easier because you don't have to account for or model a lighting-based variation.
So even though this newest release from Microsoft is not really meant for common use or for us gamers, it still holds significant importance for the development community. I can't wait to see and hear about the new applications and uses that people will come up with for this device.