Microsoft has already revealed the always-on Kinect for its new Xbox One console, but Redmond is adding another sensor to its lineup — the next-generation Kinect for Windows.
The tech giant has announced that its new Windows-based sensor, expected to launch next year, was built with much of the same technology as the new Xbox One Kinect, meaning it will include voice and gesture commands.
"Just as the new Kinect sensor will bring opportunities for revolutionizing gaming and entertainment, the new Kinect for Windows sensor will revolutionize computing experiences. The precision and intuitive responsiveness that the new platform provides will accelerate the development of voice and gesture experiences on computers," Bob Heddle, director of Kinect for Windows, wrote in a blog post.
Kinect for Windows will come with a high-definition colour camera, as well as a noise-isolating multi-microphone array to filter ambient sounds and better recognise speaking voices. It will also include Microsoft's Time-of-Flight technology, which measures the time it takes photons to bounce off a person or object.
"All of this means that the new sensor recognizes precise motions and details," Heddle said, pointing to slight wrist rotation, body position, and even the wrinkles in clothes as data the new Kinect will sense and analyse. The sensor's enhancements will make it easier for developers to better track people, objects, and environments with greater detail. And with an expanded field of view, those details will come alive no matter the size of the room you play in.
Microsoft also said Kinect for Windows will feature improved skeletal tracking, which means the new sensor tracks more points on the human body than before, including the tip of the hand and thumb. Its ability to track six skeletons at once opens a range of new multi-player gaming scenarios, including what Heddle called "improved 'avateering,'" as well as enhanced rehabilitation and physical fitness solutions and the possibility of creating experiences in public spaces, where multiple users can participate together.
Meanwhile, new active-infrared capabilities allow the upcoming Kinect for Windows to work in almost any lighting conditions, offering developers more wiggle room to build for real-world settings.
Heddle declined to provide more details, instead teasing the Microsoft Build Developer Conference, held in San Francisco from 26-28 June, when the company will share more about how developers and designers can get their hands on the new technology.
Microsoft released its first Kinect for Windows SDK in February 2012, aiming to take the Kinect sensor technology beyond entertainment to use it for things like healthcare. A release date for the next-gen version of the sensor has not yet been revealed.
"A new Kinect for Windows era is coming — an era of unprecedented responsiveness and precision," Heddle said.