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Kinect 2 Coming to Windows This Summer

Microsoft's Kinect camera is best known by those who attach them to their Xbox gaming consoles, although Microsoft also offers a version of the sensor for Windows PCs. While Kinect is a toy for some, for others it's enabling new business opportunities.

Kinect was prominent at last week's National Retail Federation show in New York. During my booth tour, I even had the opportunity to chat briefly with Chris White, the senior program manager for Kinect, who oversees its development and marketing. White confirmed that the eagerly anticipated next iteration of Kinect is on pace to arrive for Windows this summer.

The new Kinect 2 will sport an HD (1080p) swivel camera with 1920 x 1080 resolution, support for 30 frames per second (fps) and a 16:9 aspect ratio. These specs are an improvement over the first-generation Kinect's 640 × 480 (480p) resolution, support for 30 fps and a 4:3 aspect ratio, according to a post by 123Kinect. Many retailers and distributors of apparel and other consumer goods should find that major boost appealing for product development.

Microsoft had a number of partners demonstrating Kinect at its NRF booth last week, which it described in a blog post.

One Microsoft partner bullish about the potential for Kinect 2 is FaceCake, a company that has developed what it calls a virtual dressing room. Using its swivel camera, customers can visualize how apparel will look on them -- whether it's a tie, a blouse or any other garment. With Kinect 2's HD capabilities and other features, the swivel camera will also be able to provide better detail and will be useful for gestures, explained Tom Chamberlin, FaceCake's vice president of business development.

Microsoft has hundreds of developers working with the new Kinect 2 SDK, and the deadline for participating in the preview program is Jan. 31.  As of last week, Microsoft is believed to have filled 300 of 500 of the preview slots.

Among those testing Kinect 2 is NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has already used it to control a robotic arm.

While Kinect 2 promises to have a lot of appeal to those building new vertical and industrial applications, I wonder if Kinect 2's improved precision will make it more appealing for mainstream desktop and communication functions, such as video conferencing. If Microsoft's tendency of getting things right the third time holds here, we may have to wait for Kinect 3. But the Kinect 2 looks like it will be a nice improvement over the first version.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/21/2014 at 2:13 PM


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