This is the first time Microsoft has bundled tools to develop native applications on Windows integrated with Kinect.
Key features of Windows 8 Kinect SDK:
- Support for full integration with Windows 8 apps. Build windows 8 apps that leverage Kinect input.
- Accelerometer Data APIs
- Exposure of the infrared stream in the application programming interface (API) as a new color image format.
- Extended depth data (beyond four meters), but with reduced quality as distance increases. CopyDepthImagePixelData() now provides details beyond 4 meters; please note that the quality of data degrades with distance. In addition to Extended Depth Data, usability of the Depth Data API has been improved. (No more bit masking is required.)
- Ability to optimize color camera settings: The Color Camera Settings can now be optimized to your environment. You can now fine-tune white balance, contrast, hue, saturation, and other settings. To see the full list, launch Kinect Explorer from Developer Toolkit Browser and review the Exposure Settings and Color Settings controls for a full list of settings that can be optimized.
- Support for a new raw Bayer color image format
- Exposure of the sensor’s accelerometer in the API
- Support for German in the speech-recognition pack
- Support for several new APIs for converting data between color, depth and skeleton coordinate spaces
- Support for Windows running in a virtual machine (VM), including those from Microsoft’s Hyper-V team, VMWare, and Parallels
The key feature is of course ability to use it to develop Windows 8 apps i.e. Win32 apps. Of course, these will not, yet, run on WinRT and ARM devices. The new SDK also adds support for Visual Studio 2012 and .Net 4.5.
Kinect Studio 1.6.0 has been updated to support the new features in the SDK.
The Kinect for Windows sensor is different from the one you see with Xbox 360, although looks similar. However, it is designed to work at closer range and to work with Windows 7/8 PCs. Hardware wise, Kinect for Windows has a modified camera to see objects that are “as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device. Makes sense for a device that would be used by a user sitting in front of the PC. Other than that, it has a shorter USB cable to fit well with your PC.
The SDK and runtime are available under both a commercial license and a hobbyist license, allowing developers to create commercial/business applications that make use of the product, and fun apps that are free to hack and distribute.