Microsoft plans to release a new version of its Kinect sensor for Windows computers, in response to requests from developers building applications beyond the Xbox for which Kinect was originally designed.
A new Windows version of the Kinect will have a shorter USB cable and a sort of macro lens capable of precise tracking at closer range than the Xbox 360 version that’s now on the market.
Here’s how it’s described in a blog post by Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows:
Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters. “Near Mode” will enable a whole new class of “close up” applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360.
That makes sense if you’re a retailer, for instance, wanting to develop a Kinect kiosk for shoppers to digitally try on different outfits. A store wouldn’t want to devote a living-room sized area to the kiosk.
A retail Kinect kiosk might also be able to scan an object to find its price, a capability that would work best at close range.
But the big question for millions of Kinect owners is whether that firmware will be available to everyone, so they can play closer to the sensor.
There aren’t details on the pricing, industrial design and release date of the new Kinect hardware, but Eisler noted that the Kinect for Windows platform will be released in early 2012.
That sounds to me like a big hint that the new sensor will be shown during Steve Ballmer’s keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 9.
I was alerted to Eisler’s post by Mary Jo Foley’s blog.