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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.

February 1, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Kinect for Windows launches

Microsoft has been working on expanding the uses of its popular Kinect motion- and voice-sensor technology.

Today, as CEO Steve Ballmer promised at CES last month, the company launched Kinect for Windows.

The company announced in a blog post today that version 1.0 of Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) are available for download, and that distributors in 12 countries are starting to ship the hardware for Kinect for Windows. The hardware has a suggested retail price of $249. Microsoft will offer special academic pricing of $149 for qualified educational users later this year,wrote Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows.

Kinect was originally developed for Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console. But the company has been encouraging other uses for it.

Earlier this year, the company launched a program giving academics a software-development kit for Kinect applications. More recently, Microsoft has teamed up with startup accelerator TechStars to launch Kinect Accelerator, an incubation program for startups with ideas for commercial applications using Kinect technologies. And a Kinect for Windows commercial program has launched for established businesses to develop applications using Kinect. Today’s Kinect for Windows launch is part of that commercial program.

According to Eisler’s blog post today, among the features of Kinect for Windows software will be: support for up to four Kinect sensors plugged into the same computer and improved skeletal tracking, including the ability for developers to control which user is being tracked by the sensor. The hardware will allow “near mode,” enabling the depth camera to see objects as close as 40 centimeters away.

There’s also been rumors in recent days of Microsoft working to get Kinect into laptops.

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