For PC users more interested in the practical side of Microsoft's Kinect, a Windows version is now available for $250.
Microsoft is also launching the Kinect for Windows commercial software development kit today. An SDK was previously available for academics and hobbyists, but the commercial SDK will allow developers to sell their creations for the first time.
Microsoft launched Kinect for the Xbox 360 in fall 2010. Almost immediately, hackers figured out how to extend the device to non-gaming applications on PCs. People used the camera to control humanoid robots, dispense candy, remotely lift toilet seats and have lightsaber duals, among other uses. The Kinect for Windows hardware and SDK will make these kinds of innovations easier, and commercially viable.
But using Kinect on Windows comes at an extra cost: The camera is $100 more expensive than its Xbox 360 counterpart. Microsoft said last month that Kinect for Xbox 360 is “is in large part subsidized by consumers buying a number of Kinect games, subscribing to Xbox LIVE, and making other transactions associated with the Xbox 360 ecosystem.”
So why not just buy Kinect for Xbox 360 and plug it into a Windows PC? Two reasons: First, Kinect for Windows has a shorter-range camera than the Xbox 360 version, able to see objects as close as 16 inches away. Second, as PCWorld's Matt Peckham reported last month, Kinect for Xbox 360 isn't licensed for commercial use or supported under warranty on other platforms. Kinect apps developed using the commercial SDK for Windows may not by fully supported on the Xbox 360 hardware.
Given that the commercial SDK just launched, most people won't have any use for Kinect for Windows right now anyway. You may even want to wait until the technology gets built into laptops.