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Kinect for Windows releases SDK update and launches in China

I’m very pleased to announce that the latest Kinect for Windows runtime and software development kit (SDK) have been released today. I am also thrilled to announce that the Kinect for Windows sensor is now available in China.

Developers and business leaders around the world are just beginning to realize what’s possible when the natural user interface capabilities of Kinect are made available for commercial use in Windows environments. I look forward to seeing the innovative things Chinese companies do with this voice and gesture technology, as well as the business and societal problems they are able to solve with it.

Kinect for Windows availability: current and coming soon

 

The updated SDK gives developers more powerful sensor data tools and better ease of use, while offering businesses the ability to deploy in more places. The updated SDK includes:

Extended sensor data access

  • Data from the sensor’s 3-axis accelerometer is now exposed in the API. This enables detection of the sensor’s orientation.
  • Extended-range depth data now provides details beyond 4 meters. Extended-range depth data is data beyond the tested and certified ranges and is therefore lower accuracy. For those developers who want access to this data, it’s now available.
  • Color camera settings, such as brightness and exposure, can now be set explicitly by the application, allowing developers to tune a Kinect for Windows sensor’s environment.
  • The infrared stream is now exposed in the API. This means developers can use the infrared stream in many scenarios, such as calibrating other color cameras to the depth sensor or capturing grayscale images in low-light situations.
  • The updated SDK used with the Kinect for Windows sensors allows for faster toggling of IR to support multiple overlapping sensors.

Access to all this data means new experiences are possible: Whole new scenarios open up, such as monitoring manufacturing processes with extended-range depth data. Building solutions that work in low-light settings becomes a reality with IR stream exposure, such as in theaters and light-controlled museums. And developers can tailor applications to work in different environments with the numerous color camera settings, which enhance an application’s ability to work perfectly for end users.

One of the new samples released demonstrates a best-in-class UI based on the Kinect for Windows

One of the new samples released demonstrates a best-in-class UI based on the Kinect for Windows
Human Interface Guidelines called the Basic Interactions – WPF sample.

Improved developer tools

  • Kinect Studio has been updated to support all new sensor data features.
  • The SDK ships with a German speech recognition language pack that has been optimized for the sensor’s microphone array.
  • Skeletal tracking is now supported on multiple sensors within a single application.
  • New samples show how to use all the new SDK features. Additionally, a fantastic new sample has been released that demonstrates a best-in-class UI based on the Kinect for Windows Human Interface Guidelines called the Basic Interactions – WPF sample.

We are committed to continuing to make it easier and easier for developers to create amazing applications. That’s why we continue to invest in tools and resources like these. We want to do the heavy lifting behind the scenes so the technologists using our platform can focus on making their specific solutions great. For instance, people have been using our Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) to design more natural, intuitive interactions since we released last May. Now, the Basic Interactions sample brings to life the best practices that we described in the HIG and can be easily repurposed.

Greater support for operating systems

  • Windows 8 compatibility. By using the updated Kinect for Windows SDK, you can develop a Kinect for Windows solution for Windows 8 desktop applications.
  • The latest SDK supports development with Visual Studio 2012 and the new Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.
  • The Kinect for Windows sensor now works on Windows running in a virtual machine (VM) and has been tested with the following VM environments: Microsoft Hyper-V, VMWare, and Parallels. 

Windows 8 compatibility and VM support now mean Kinect for Windows can be in more places, on more devices. We want our business customers to be able to build and deploy their solutions where they want, using the latest tools, operating systems, and programming languages available today.

This updated version of the SDK is fully compatible with previous commercial versions, so we recommend that all developers upgrade their applications to get access to the latest improvements and to ensure that Windows 8 deployments have a fully tested and supported experience.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, over the next few months we will be making Kinect for Windows sensors available in seven more markets: Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, and Puerto Rico. Stay tuned; we’ll bring you more updates on interesting applications and deployments in these and other markets as we learn about them in coming months.

Craig Eisler
General Manager, Kinect for Windows

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Kinect for Windows: SDK and Runtime version 1.5 Released

Kinect for Windows sensorI am pleased to announce that today we have released version 1.5 of the Kinect for Windows runtime and SDK.  Additionally, Kinect for Windows hardware is now available in Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. Starting next month, Kinect for Windows hardware will be available in 15 additional countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. When this wave of expansion is complete, Kinect for Windows will be available in 31 countries around the world.  Go to our Kinect for Windows website to find a reseller in your region.

 We have added more capabilities to help developers build amazing applications, including:

  • Kinect Studio, our new tool which allows developers to record and play back Kinect data, dramatically shortening and simplifying the development lifecycle of a Kinect application. Now a developer writing a Kinect for Windows application can record clips of users in the application’s target environment and then replay those clips at a later time for testing and further development.
  • A set of Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) to guide developers on best practices for the creation of Natural User Interfaces using Kinect.
  • The Face Tracking SDK, which provides a real-time 3D mesh of facial features—tracking the head position, location of eyebrows, shape of the mouth, etc.
  • Significant sample code additions and improvements.  There are many new samples in both C++ and C#, plus a “Basics” series of samples with language coverage in C++, C#, and Visual Basic.
  • SDK documentation improvements, including new resources as well as migration of documentation to MSDN for easier discoverability and real-time updates.

 We have continued to expand and improve our skeletal tracking capabilities in this release:

  • Kinect for Windows SDK v1.5 offers 10-joint head/shoulders/arms skeletal trackingSeated Skeletal Tracking is now available. This tracks a 10-joint head/shoulders/arms skeleton, ignoring the leg and hip joints. It is not restricted to seated positions; it also tracks head/shoulders/arms when a person is standing. This makes it possible to create applications that are optimized for seated scenarios (such as office work with productivity software or interacting with 3D data) or standing scenarios in which the lower body isn’t visible to the sensor (such as interacting with a kiosk or when navigating through MRI data in an operating room).
  • Skeletal Tracking is supported in Near Mode, including both Default and Seated tracking modes. This allows businesses and developers to create applications that track skeletal movement at closer proximity, like when the end user is sitting at a desk or needs to stand close to an interactive display.

We have made performance and data quality enhancements, which improve the experience of all Kinect for Windows applications using the RGB camera or needing RGB and depth data to be mapped together (“green screen” applications are a common example):

  • Performance for the mapping of a depth frame to a color frame has been significantly improved, with an average speed increase of 5x.
  • Depth and color frames will now be kept in sync with each other. The Kinect for Windows runtime continuously monitors the depth and color streams and corrects any drift.
  • RGB Image quality has been improved in the RGB 640×480 @30fps and YUV 640×480 @15fps video modes. The image quality is now sharper and more color-accurate in high and low lighting conditions.

New capabilities to enable avatar animation scenarios, which makes it easier for developers to build applications that control a 3D avatar, such as Kinect Sports.

  • Kinect for Windows skeletal tracking is supported in near mode, including both default and seated tracking modesKinect for Windows runtime provides Joint Orientation information for the skeletons tracked by the Skeletal Tracking pipeline.  
  • The Joint Orientation is provided in two forms:  A Hierarchical Rotation based on a bone relationship defined on the Skeletal Tracking joint structure, and an Absolute Orientation in Kinect camera coordinates.

Finally, as I mentioned in my Sneak Peek Blog post, we released four new languages for speech recognition – French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. In addition, we released new language packs which enable speech recognition for the way a language is spoken in different regions: English/Great Britain, English/Ireland, English/Australia, English/New Zealand, English/Canada, French/France, French/Canada, Italian/Italy, Japanese/Japan, Spanish/Spain, and Spanish/Mexico.

As we have worked with customers large and small over the past months, we’ve seen the value in having a fully integrated approach: the Kinect software and hardware are designed together; audio, video, and depth are all fully supported and integrated; our sensor, drivers, and software work together to provide world class echo cancellation; our approach to human tracking, which is designed in conjunction with the Kinect sensor, works across a broad range of people of all shapes, sizes, clothes, and hairstyles, etc. And because we design the hardware and software together, we are able to make changes that open up exciting new areas for innovation, like Near Mode.

Furthermore, because Kinect for Windows is from Microsoft, our support, distribution, and partner network are all at a global scale. For example, the Kinect for Windows hardware and software are tested together and supported as a unit in every country we are in (31 countries by June!), and we will continue to add countries over time. Microsoft’s developer tools are world class, and our SDK is built to fully integrate with Visual Studio. Especially important for our global business customers is Microsoft’s ability to connect them to partners and experts who can help them use Kinect for Windows to re-imagine their brands, their products, and their processes.

It is exciting for us to have built and shipped such a significantly enhanced version of the Kinect for Windows SDK less than 16 weeks after launch. But we are even more excited about our plans for the future – both in country expansion for the sensor, and in enhanced capabilities of our runtime and SDK.  We believe the best is yet to come, and we can’t wait to see what developers will build with this!

Craig Eisler
General Manager, Kinect for Windows