Can Do Camera: PC Kinect SDK In March

By Jim Rossignol on February 21st, 2011 at 10:25 pm.

IS WATCHING YOU, JUDGING YOU
Microsoft have confirmed that the rumoured official SDK for the PC version of their all-seeing demon-camera of judgement motion tracking depth camera thing will have a PC SDK soon. Here’s the statement. Here’s the gist of it: “While Microsoft plans to release a commercial version at a later date, this SDK will be a starter kit to make it simpler for the academic research and enthusiast communities to create rich natural user interfaces using Kinect technology. The SDK will give users access to deep Kinect system information such as audio, system application-programming interfaces, and direct control of the Kinect sensor.”

So nothing commercial for now, at least, but we can expect some unexpectedness once this gets into the hands of the inventor-men.

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59 Comments »

  1. Phoshi says:

    Do we not already have third party interfaces to all of this stuff?

  2. Vinraith says:

    It will be interesting to see if anyone can come with a game that is 1) fun for more than ten minutes and 2) actually benefits from motion control. I’ve yet to see something meeting both criteria, myself.

    • pakoito says:

      RTS without a mouse pointer or only one active selected group, just “touch and command” as many units as you want simultaneously.

    • pakoito says:

      Double-weilding FPS/Swordgame where both weapons aim separately.

    • pakoito says:

      DragonBall/Naruto/Spellcasting game…this concept needs to be polished a bit but its still feasible.

    • Vinraith says:

      Too imprecise, too imprecise, and too imprecise, in that order. Too limited too, for that matter. Most of what you’re talking about would be better done with two mice, although it’d be a particularly dumbed-down RTS that didn’t need any hotkeys.
      I’m not about to suggest that mouse/keyboard is the be all and end all of control technologies. Indeed, the tendonitis in my wrist would very much like to see something better come along. I sincerely doubt that motion control, at least in anything resembling its current form, is going to be it though.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      New DRM which matches your physical appearance to your game install.

    • pakoito says:

      I’m sorry I can’t do a full design document in 30 seconds, and I’m sorry for that lack of imagination of yours too. Hope some medical treatment will help you or something :(

    • Shadram says:

      Dance Central.

    • Bhazor says:

      The problem with the Kinect is that it is complete garbage at almost every single existing genre. Whole new styles of game need to be made and sadly the best we have got so far are coconut shys and end of pier novelties. There is huge potential in there even if we still have no idea what to do with it.

      It is really good for fitness stuff though.

    • Tim Smith says:

      Oh Vinraith, you large elephant wong.

      @pakoito
      I like those suggestions.

    • Premium User Badge Mo says:

      Give it time. Devs need time to play with the tech, understand what it excels at, where it’s limitations are, etc. Then comes the realization that you can’t mash motion controls into existing genres. After that, expect different genres of games (like Dance Central, as mentioned above). Maybe they might not appeal to you, but they are good games, and they appeal to many people. I’m down with that.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Chat Roulette + Kinect + the episode of DS9 where quark takes a picture of Kira using that holorecorder so he can import her into a holodeck program

    • Novotny says:

      What about some sort of creepy business where you interact with a small boy? Bet no-one thinks of that

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Novotny… wasn’t that Milo?

    • Vinraith says:

      A h the internet, where you never know whether a comment is going to spark an interesting discussion, result in arbitrary comparisons to animal genitalia, or both.

      For what it’s worth, I agree with Bhazor and Mo. The technology, certainly as it stands, lacks the necessary precision of control to be used for genres designed for traditional controllers or mice/keyboard combos. That’s not to say it has no potential, but “whole body gaming” is inherently a different creature than anything else that’s been done. I think it’s fair to wonder aloud 1) whether the technology will develop said new and interesting genres or stagnate and die out as a novelty and 2) whether any of those new genres will be of personal interest.

    • Novotny says:

      I’ll use humour tags next time if it helps.

    • Ziv says:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBlOxWfa3fM
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZYcUUR8xM4

      Will never get old. Especially once your friends beat your score.

    • Novotny says:

      Oh that’s superb Ziv, thank you.

    • Consumatopia says:

      if the technology were made made with a higher resolution, such that you could basically just aim a camera at any object and get a real time, high-res, detailed model of the object on your computer, then something like Second Life would go from being pointless to incredible. Copying real objects into VR would be as easy as pressing a button. Other people could see your face, in real time 3d, including facial expressions. Downside: people would probably start breaking their legs trying to dance with each other.

      The current hardware, though–mostly dancing/exercise games. Maybe some weird ideas like composing music with the position of your body limbs. Kinect gives the player more degrees of freedom than a keyboard/mouse/controller, but keyboard/mouse/controller offers you more precision and control. So much more precision and control, I suspect that in terms of information theory the keyboard/mouse/controller has a greater channel capacity than Kinect, in terms of the player being able to communicate more information to the CPU. (In theory Kinect offers much more–an array of color/depth positions changing continuously. In practice, all the player can actually communicate to a typical game are vague gestures.) So if what you care about is interacting with a deep simulation as efficiently as possible, keyboard/mouse/controller is still the way to go. But if you care more about physical involvement or subjective experience than simulation depth, motion-based controls might be more appealing. Motion controls are, in a sense, anti-cybernetic.

      When it’s said and done, though, the effect of depth camera technology on telecommuting and robotics will probably be more significant than the impact on gaming.

    • Valvarexart says:

      What about facial expressions for RPG’s and Poker Games?
      I know this doesn’t have much with motion to do, but if you had a really good camera, a microphone, something which measures your pulse and really good background software, games could be really awesome… NPC’s could build upon your reactions and expressions and tone of voice etc…And imagine playing a Zombie Survival Game where you can see how scared your teammates are?
      Valve are already developing these technologies, and, as far as I’ve heard, Razer.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      I never use hotkeys in RTS games.

      Maybe this is why I lose…

    • Premium User Badge Harlander says:

      Maybe Waving Hands would be a good fit for early experimentation with Kinect… gesture based, but a simple, circumscribed set of gestures done with both hands at once..

    • Tim Smith says:

      I’m aware I’m a little late on this, but I take offence at having had my comparison to you be described as “arbitrary.” I put heart and thought into calling you a large elephant wong – I changed it from the previous mammoth wong – in order to bring a colourful insult to your world. Shame on you, and your belittling of me and my large elephant Wong comparison and collections.

    • Rond says:

      I’d love to play X3 with Kinect, so I could control my ship with a conventional gamepad and use UIs just by pointing a finger at them, like a “real” space pilot would.

  3. ManaTree says:

    Heh. With all the unofficial stuff with Kinect around, I really do wonder if the official SDK will make a huge impact when it releases.

    But at least they noticed people are using it for cool stuff.

  4. Wallllrod says:

    I don’t give a cock about motion control games, but this can only be a good thing. Cheap(ish) and accessible new technology always makes cool stuff appear.

  5. Hoaxfish says:

    I wonder what MS think we’re actually going to do with a “commercial” version?

    It doesn’t really strike me as a “home user” item on the PC in the same way that it works with the XBox… it’s essentially an exotic game-controller/camera array, for a completely incompatible form of “game”, and most people are happy with mouse+keyboard. Keyboard+mouse really doesn’t translate in Kinect movements in the same way as mapping keyboard keys onto a gamepad layout.

    I suspect specialist software, like 3D modelling plugins, etc will be the result, with MS taking the results from that sort of thing and building it into future versions of Windows… but even then, my mouse and keyboard and me are roughly 12 inches from my screen, far within the “suggested” range of the Kinect.

    I’m not waiting around for Games for Windows Kinect Live, but maybe I just don’t get it yet.

    • Bhazor says:

      “I wonder what MS think we’re actually going to do with a “commercial” version?”
      Make something they can sell.
      At the moment no developers can publish pc games for Kinect without Microsoft crushing them. Its just like how you need to buy a license and an SDK to publish a game on the 360. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft is losing money on the Kinect units, it is a really nice bit of kit for the price, and are relying on licensing to make money.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Yea, part of my question was who would publish a game for the PC Kinect?

      I mean, the way most people work/play with PC is up close on a deskspace, not sitting X foot away on the sofa from the screen.

      So many claim that PC gaming is dying/a pirate’s den, so there’s very little economic incentive to develop games for it… how many are going to make a game that requires purchase of an expensive “controller”, and is near incompatible with the normal keyboard+mouse combo.

      It’s might be a sort of niche “alternative” control scheme that doesn’t really seem designed for the PC “play” environment.

      Yea, money can be made from Kinect software… but what kind of software is this really going to “drive forward”? I’m not sure MS are going for the PC games market with a PC Kinect.

    • Shadram says:

      The “Commercial” version just means some kind of licensing to allow you to sell whatever you develop, as Bhazor said. It will undoubtedly be more feature packed, but I’d imagine the SDK itself will still be freely available, in the same way that the XNA SDK is free, allowing XBox development. You only need to pay when you want to distribute your game on XBox Live (presumably to cover hosting costs). Whether you’ll need to pay to distribute Kinect software, I’m not sure. It’d be tough for them to police it, and I’d imagine they want to encourage Kinect development, not scare the developers away with upfront cost risks.

    • wuwei says:

      Hoaxfish: I’m interested to see how well the various head tracking projects end up working, I can see that finding a place in my PC setup.

    • 12kill4 says:

      I can see kinect being applied into business and commerce environments… anything from an automated measuring system for a tailor (although accuracy could be a problem there…) to OHS training (measuring individual’s success at replicating correct lifting actions, etc), or even just some fancy presentation controls. Also the item itself isnt that expensive to produce now that the RnD has been done, so the more places MS can get money back on that initial huge spend will dramatically improve the rate at which it can reduce the pricing on the unit. I wouldnt be suprised to see a PC optimized unit either- perhaps with a closer focus range and maybe some form of eye-movement/gaze tracking to allow for greater precision….

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yea, in terms of hardware I think it’d be interesting if you could set the “effective range” that the device operates at, as well as a general shrinkage in size.

      I’d be amazed if we don’t see a mini-Kinect array built into future consoles or sold as webcam sized devices… assuming the technology really becomes mainstrem.

  6. Bassism says:

    An SDK for your SKD so you can develop software while you develop software?

  7. DarkNoghri says:

    But will there be Linux/Unix support? Ha, who am I kidding?

  8. Batolemaeus says:

    I wonder if they’re actually going to learn from the lesson. Do they understand why opening up a kinect api would boost their sales to a point where the hypothetical money made with a commercial sdk would be vastly overshadowed thanks to the rise in popularity?

    Or more to the point, will they be more open in the future and try to count on clever hackers to boost their sales and market penetration?

  9. Premium User Badge Mo says:

    No word on whether they’ll open up the skeletal data. The open source stuff can access the camera, audio & sensor data, but the Kinect software that translates the raw data into skeletal data is the insanely cool part.

    • Premium User Badge yhancik says:

      Actually “the open source stuff” can’t access the audio. But one open source library (OpenNI) has a closed source component that gives you access to the skeleton. And it’s working rather well, once you manage to install everything you need to get it work ;)

    • Premium User Badge Mo says:

      I heard about OpenNI, but I assumed nothing came of it because we haven’t seen a bunch of even neater stuff come out since (AFAIK). Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, or maybe it’s because (as you’ve implied) it’s a pain to pull it all together.

      Regardless, an official SDK with skeletal data would solve the problem, so fingers crossed. :)

    • Premium User Badge yhancik says:

      Actually, those were based on OpenNI + NITE (the skeleton part) ;)
      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/01/05/daily-kinect-hack-become-a-superhero/
      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/01/04/more-kinectyhacks-world-of-wavecraft/

      and all (more gaming oriented) examples using FAAST : http://www.kinect-hacks.com/faast
      (which is, to make it simple, to skeleton poses and movements what GlovePIE is to the Wiimote)

    • johndowns says:

      I was at a presentation by Craig Mundie earlier this week, and he announced (for the first time, to my knowledge) that the SDK will provide skeletal tracking information and access to the array microphone!

  10. shinygerbil says:

    All I want to see is a program that will respond only to the phrase “Kinect, have you been a bad boy?” and then only by making the sensor nod up and down. Or just slowly lowering its head.

  11. Novotny says:

    oops

  12. Joe Maley says:

    I, for one, am very excited.
    Can’t wait to jump on the ceiling while playing VVVVVV.

  13. vodka and cookies says:

    There’s been some cool novelty stuff done by hackers but I haven’t seen anything truly useful for Kinect outside of its original games purpose.

    Maybe this will help change things but using Kinect for anything UI wise is less productive than an actual physical interface.

    • Premium User Badge yhancik says:

      Well, working in interactive digital/newmedia art, I can tell that it’s insanely useful.

      We’re often faced with the issue of detecting the pose or position in a person (in an exhibition space) and creating interaction based on that. We can do that with a regular webcam, but the Kinect solves a lot of issue (from background subtraction to detecting people in the dark, or in front of a projection), and even gives us new data to play with (depth & skeleton) ;)

  14. stahlwerk says:

    Structured light depth sensing and scanning for the masses? Colour me excited!

  15. Thants says:

    This deserves a Staring Eyes tag.

  16. cw8 says:

    Wouldn’t mind someone making it work with the Jedi Knight series of games. Would be fun to use a broomstick to swing a lightsaber ingame, I just hope I don’t trash my room first.

  17. Baboonanza says:

    I no need no FORKING SHOES!

  18. wu wei says:

    So did the mandatory registration before commenting do anything other than inconvenience legitimate posters? It hasn’t seemed to do jack about this spammer.

  19. MajorManiac says:

    Given that pc users are so much closer to their machines, I would have thought a device to track the face (especially eye position) would be of more use than tracking the whole body.

    I’ve always liked the idea of moving my view with the mouse in an FPS, but aiming at targets with my eyes for example.

  20. tomnullpointer says:

    Theres been load of kinect hacks rolling around the digital art community, not games yet of course, but still worth a look imo.
    http://www.flight404.com/blog/?p=472
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFwcjHMm4lo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYEXc7YVZ-E&feature=related

    The non-MS drivers have been working successfully in openframeworks,cinder and unity for a few months now. Wether anyone can make a decent game with it as an interface I dont know, but its certainly a cool peice of tech!

  21. Ravenger says:

    I hoping for some decent head-tracking software so we can do head-tracking in games without wearing a silly hat or head-set with LEDs.

  22. sasayan says:

    I’m working on a program to match games with rehabilitation exercises (because otherwise they’re excruciatingly boring), having an official sdk to work with will be nice.

  23. DainIronfoot says:

    Easy, cheap motion capture for hobbyist animators? That’d be nice!