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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

April 14, 2011 at 7:41 AM

MIX11: Day 2 recap. What’s coming to Kinect and Windows Phone

This story ran in the print edition of The Seattle Times on April 14, 2011. -Sharon Pian Chan

LAS VEGAS — The hottest programming language at Microsoft’s MIX conference was body language.

On Wednesday, Microsoft said a tool kit is coming for developers to build motion-sensor applications to run on Windows and Kinect, and then gave everyone who attended the conference a free Kinect motion sensor.

Kinect, which has sold 10 million units since the fall, now runs only with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video-game system. Microsoft sees Kinect as the first step toward a future of computing that will transcend the mouse, the keyboard and even the touch screen.

Most of the roughly 1,000 developers at MIX came to learn about Web development for Internet Explorer 9, Silverlight and Windows Phone 7. Almost all were captivated by the motion-sensor software Microsoft showed on Kinect and Windows.

In one application dubbed the “universe at your fingertips,” a Microsoft researcher moved through space and time. Using imagery captured by the worldwide telescope project, he waved his hands and zoomed from the rings of Saturn out to the Milky Way, then zoomed in to a visualization of a future solar eclipse on the surface of our planet.

Another Microsoft employee rolled out on stage in a recliner he steered by waving his hands in front of a Kinect sensor connected to a Windows PC on his lap.

In a demonstration of an application for blind people, a man wearing a helmet with a Kinect sensor on top walked toward QR codes — which are like bar codes — mounted on frames. As he neared each frame, a laptop on his back vibrated and gave spoken directions to turn left or right.

“I think it’s very impressive,” said Tohru Katori, president and founder of Tokyo-based developer Azest. He came to MIX to learn the latest on Web, Silverlight and Windows Phone 7 development, but could see his company adopting the motion-sensor technology in five years for business applications. Azest has already been researching the use of Nintendo Wii technology.

After he saw the software for visually impaired people, he started thinking about how it could be applied to forklifts, robots and assembly lines. “We think of using this technology for smart grid or smart inventory,” he said, such as directing a robot to move parts around a warehouse.

The developer tool kit for Kinect and Windows will be available this spring.

Microsoft has also started working on basic motion-sensing technology for Windows Phone 7, the company said Wednesday as it announced an array of new tools for mobile app developers.

The motion-sensing tools will give developers access to the phone’s gyroscope, compass and camera, which could be used to build an augmented reality app that shows virtual billboards on video flowing into a phone’s camera or, in theory, a virtual paddle-ball game where the ball would appear on the phone screen and the phone could be shaken like a paddle.

“Goal No. 1 is to inspire the developers,” said Brandon Watson, senior director of developer experience with Windows Phone. He said Microsoft responded to almost all the tools that mobile app developers asked for.

“We delivered everything but the leprechaun hair and unicorn tears,” he said.

In what seemed like a milestone announcement for its app market, Microsoft said the popular “Angry Birds” game will be coming to Windows Phone 7 on May 25.

Microsoft also showed off new tools to build applications that multitask, so that a phone owner could listen to music on a radio app while checking email.

Other new tools add features for app developers to animate the tiles on the phone’s home screen.

Microsoft is also building a deeper search that scours both the Web and the apps installed on a phone.

Windows Phone owners should see the results of these new features in an update later this year.

Nokia’s Marco Argenti, head of developer experience, spoke during Wednesday’s keynote speech about the company’s partnership with Microsoft to make Windows Phone 7 the primary Nokia smartphone operating system. But he gave no date on when the first phones will start selling.

“We are working hard right now to create Windows and Nokia phones,” Argenti said. “We’re all running really fast.”

Nokia has said large volumes of its Windows Phone 7s devices will start selling in 2012.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s mobile business, spent the first part of his keynote addressing why the software update for Windows Phone 7 is late. Many phone owners have been waiting for the update, which will deliver a copy-and-paste feature.

Belfiore said that as a PC company, Microsoft did not anticipate phone-manufacturing issues and the testing wireless carriers wanted to conduct.

“The fact is phones are pretty different in a significant way that I think we now have a handle on,” he said. “We expect we’re going to get these problems licked and have no problems in the future.”

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