Microsoft Kinect is a motion sensing input device. Many people will know the Xbox version – after launching in 2010 it became the fastest selling consumer electronics device of all time with 8 million sales in just 2 months.
Kinect for Xbox has now sold over 18 million units in total and is great fun with the right games – if you have a large enough room and high ceilings
Today I received an offer of a Kinect for Windows at a reduced price and suddenly realized I knew very little about it. Having crept under my radar I decided to check if it is as good as the Xbox version and if it’s worth buying.
Kinect For Windows – The Windows version was launched last year and is not compatible with the Xbox – or vice versa which is a shame as the Xbox version is a lot cheaper.
Kinect for Windows version 1.5 was released in May – it offers seated mode and improved skeletal and facial tracking, new tools, Kinect Studio and advanced speech recognition capabilities. It also enables the sensor to see objects as close as 40cm in front of the camera, has a shortened USB cable to ensure reliability and includes access to software updates.
However, there’s a good reason why it hasn’t seized the public imagination yet – it’s not ready for home use, as some early buyers have already found out to their cost.
Microsoft Store describes the Kinect for Windows as: “Intended to be used with the Kinect for Windows Commercial SDK. The sensor unit does not ship with any software, and will only operate with an application developed for Kinect for Windows”.
The problem is that there really aren’t any mainstream applications for it yet – and I can’t find any on the near horizon either. Anyone thinking they could use it to gesture-control around the screen like in Minority Report will be sorely disappointed. [The sensor isn’t sensitive enough to recognize fingers anyway, only broader arm movements].
Nor does Kinect for Windows (yet) provide the ability to control your computer by voice commands or dictate emails in a hands free scenario. In fact, if you buy one now you will likely end up with a very pretty, but very expensive, brick.
What’s In The Box?
Kinect for Windows sensor, a (very limited) manual and a USB/power cable. No software – you will have to download the SDK for Kinect.
Once plugged in, Windows 7 will load the drivers but there is basically nothing you can do with it unless you are a developer and write your own apps for it – it won’t even work in Skype.
It’s kind of like buying a printer with no drivers available – you have to program your own before you can print…
Programmers can use the Kinect for Windows SDK to build applications with C++, C#, or Visual Studio Basic by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.
If that sounds like double dutch, Kinect for Windows is definitely not for you
Amazon do at least try to make this clear in the product description for Kinect Sensor for Windows by warning:
- Not for Gaming Use.
- This product is not the same product as Kinect for Xbox 360 product, and is not intended for use with Xbox 360s.
- This is not a consumer product.
- Intended for commercial clients and developers
Despite that, a quarter of the reviews still complain that it’s useless and will be returned.
Many other online shops don’t include any such warnings and are sending out mailshots advertising it at reduced prices – so people might buy Kinect for Windows thinking it is as good for gaming as the Xbox version.
Expect a lot of returns from disgruntled buyers…
Kinect for Windows is a strange (and expensive) product for consumer focused shops like Amazon and Newegg etc to sell – for normal users it’s simply not fit for purpose. Kinect developers are a very niche market – so niche that they could easily be served just by Microsoft’s own online store.
Perhaps apps and games may become available for it eventually but, until they are, non-developers should keep their hands firmly in their pockets.