Microsoft announces Kinect for Windows SDK

Microsoft has finally made good on its promise to aid the Kinect homebrew community, announcing the impending release of a software development kit for the depth-sensing peripheral.

The Kinect controller, which allows controller-free gaming on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, has proven a strong seller for the company - but a surprisingly high percentage of those sales have been to hackers and tinkerers keen to interface the USB-connected device with their PCs.

Despite some early missteps - including a Microsoft spokesperson announcing that those who reverse engineered the device for use on PCs would be faced with legal action - the community has grown at a rapid pace. That growth should be helped by Microsoft's announcement that official Windows support is in the works.

Announced by chief research officer Craig Mundie and interactive entertainment head Don Mattrick at the TechForum event, the official Kinect for Windows SDK will allow Kinect owners to develop software for the innovative sensor on Windows-based systems.

Sadly, there's a catch: Microsoft has specifically stated that it's a non-commercial SDK - meaning nobody will be able to develop commercial products. It's also - for obvious reasons - only available for Windows, leaving the not-inconsiderable number of people using Kinect on Linux and Mac systems to use the unofficial drivers from the OpenKinect project.

The company claims that the free SDK will give academic researchers unprecedented access to the Kinect's data stream - although if the research won't result in a product that can be commercialised, it remains to be seen just how much uptake the release gets in the academic community.

The Kinect for Windows SDK is scheduled for release in Q2 this year.