You’re probably thinking I’ve been talking about little else other than making Kinect work with your PC, of late (and not only because I’ve had a class to prepare for AU, I also think this technology has the potential to be very significant), but I did feel it was worth pointing out this important announcement from Microsoft: early next year (which presumably now means weeks away) we’ll see a version of Kinect that’s specifically intended to work with Windows systems (rather than the current version of the device that’s really intended to be a controller for the Xbox 360).
What’s the difference, I hear you ask? Well, it comes with shorter USB cable, for one. :-) Alright, that’s not the only difference – and there is a serious reason for making the cable shorter, helping “ensure reliability across a broad range of computers” – there’ll also be updated firmware allowing the depth camera to be accurate at as close as 50cm from the sensor (with “graceful degradation” down to 40cm).
Until now, the main option for getting Kinect to work in confined spaces was to use an optical tool such as the Nyko Zoom which uses a physical lens to move the sensor’s focal range closer. I haven’t tried it, myself, but I have trouble understanding how it would allow accurate reality capture: unless the processing logic (whether in firmware or software) gets updated, it’s hard to see how accurate point clouds would be generated.
But anyway, this “Near Mode” in the PC version of Kinect will be very handy for many CAD-related purposes, and I’m certainly looking forward to using it.
The eventual adoption of Kinect for Windows (both in terms of the hardware platform and the SDK for accessing it) is ultimately going to hinge – in my opinion – on how Microsoft chooses to monetize the technology. My preference would be for the technology cost to be factored into the device itself, leaving the SDK free to use (as it ultimately drives Kinect and Windows sales). The trick is that the price shouldn’t be too high, either: if it proved so, developers would continue to use Kinect for Xbox 360 with OpenNI and NITE (although apparently NITE has commercial licensing terms, too).
As a developer, I think I’d be happy to see a $200 charge associated with Kinect devices being used with PCs. Whether this has the potential to generate revenue in the amounts Microsoft would like from the technology remains to be seen. All will become clear in the New Year, no doubt. :-)