Kinect 2.0 Coming To PC Soon, Only Costs $200

By Nathan Grayson on July 8th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

Kinect 2.0, as seen in its natural habitat, Purgatory.

Really quick, I want a show of hands: how many of you actually bought a Kinect 1 for PC? Anyone? At all? I mean, modders and hackers defied expectations (and warranties) to come up with some cool ideas for the little-motion-controller-that-couldn’t-always, but nothing about it ever screamed, “BUY MEEEEE.” So now the better, beefier Kinect 2 is about to (literally) get under PC owners’ skin, and I’m wondering where people are at on these things. The new one will run you a whopping $199.00 – half the price of an Xbox One – so probably take that into account.

Microsoft’s put up a listing for the new PC Kinect, which is releasing on July 15th, aka next week. Between that $200 price tag and this prohibitive product description, I don’t really think Microsoft wants folks like us to buy it. Not yet, anyway:

“The Kinect for Windows v2 sensor gives developers more of the precision, responsiveness, and intuitive capabilities they need to develop interactive voice- and gesture-based applications for the Windows desktop and Windows Store. The v2 sensor is intended for use with the Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) 2.0. Learn more at the Kinect for Windows Dev Center.”

“Note: The Kinect for Windows v2 sensor does not ship with any software. It is intended for use with the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 (licensed separately) and will operate only with applications developed for Kinect for Windows v2. Developers can use the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 to build applications with C++, C#, VB.Net, Cx, or JavaScript.”

So this is about developers and apps, more than anything else. Not games. Based on a blog Microsoft posted last year, it doesn’t really seem like they’re planning much in the way of games here at all. “The [improved functionality] will raise the bar and accelerate the development of NUI applications across multiple industries, from retail and manufacturing to healthcare, education, communications, and more,” they wrote.

Some of those things could be kinda neat, but RPS hasn’t been Retailing, Manufacturing, Healthcaring, Educating, Communicating, and More-ing since 1873. We like games. Last time around inventive gamers figured out how to do everything from turn photos into Minecraft creations to become goddamn superheroes. This time? Who knows. There’ll be an SDK straight out of the box, so that’s exciting.

Granted, I still can’t help but come back around to the “Will this really matter to anyone like you or me?” question. I’m sure I’ll watch videos of people’s crazy Kinect fever dreams come to life, but the tech still seems too janky and unreliable (at least, unless it’s a night-and-day improvement over its Xbox One cousin) to own. But then, it’s tough to say what the future holds. Maybe a Kinect 2 will become an indispensable part of my sloppily cobbled together holodeck setup, along with an Oculus Rift and an Omni treadmill and an actual man who just runs around the room and punches me in the stomach occasionally.

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47 Comments »

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  1. razgon says:

    But why?

    • drinniol says:

      Eh, why not? Someone will rig up a mindblowing thing with an Oculus Rift and a Kinect.

    • Siannah says:

      … because it’s the first step on Microsoft’s “renewed focus on PC gaming”.

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      thristhart says:

      I know I’ve used the Kinect 1 a lot for robotics sensing applications, and I’ll probably pick up the new one for the same reason. Not exactly gaming interesting, but it’s a pretty cheap package for the power it provides for other stuff.

  2. morbiusnl says:

    the kinect 1 was popular with people who wanted to build an cheap 3d scanner

  3. Bravado says:

    A suitable toy for peasants…

  4. Sleepy Will says:

    What is kinect? I mean I get that it’s a camera and mic – a very good camera and I get that it has understanding of what it’s looking at, where people are and it can move to track them. What else is it?

    • Gnoupi says:

      Actually, it’s also projecting a matrix of little dots (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinect#Technology), and has an infrared camera to “read” depth from the image. It’s not just a sophisticated webcam.

      Besides, it’s just this. Since it can see part of the scene’s depth, applications can build a partial 3D model of it, detect shapes looking like people, associate a skeleton on it so that it can deduce what is your position and current movement (with a slight delay for processing, obviously)

      • Sleepy Will says:

        That is pretty cool, and it’s a cheap price for that functionality, if only there were a compelling reason to get one!!

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          Gap Gen says:

          It’ll take a while for games to adopt it, and in general I suspect it won’t supplant mouse and keyboard unless it really drops in price. But the idea of using gestures to control stuff is an interesting one, and it’ll be fun to see what people come up with. Certainly for party games or dance games it’s a great concept, but I imagine indies will have fun with the idea if they can get a solid API for it.

        • kevinspell says:

          I would not call that cheap at all. Especially if they are not providing any software with it. Two 10$ web cams, laser pointer and freeware software will get most people far enough.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            In much the same way that you can replace an arri alexa with a $10 webcam and windows movie maker to get most people “far enough”

          • P.Funk says:

            Not in this culture. The day I walked through the freezer isle of the supermarket and saw that they had a ridiculously over priced bag of just normal potatoes cut in half, not even french fries just the little globes with a single knife stroke applied… I realized how un-DIY this culture has become.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            Wait, what? You can buy frozen, whole potatoes, with a little knife slash in the top??? Who buys frozen potatoes, they last forever in a sack!

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        emertonom says:

        A more detailed analysis of the tech was posted on Gamasutra: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/DanielLau/20131127/205820/The_Science_Behind_Kinects_or_Kinect_10_versus_20.php?print=1

        In particular, the “structured light” system used in Kinect 1, which relied on projecting a fixed pattern of dots and recognizing how it was distorted by the 3d objects in the scene, is not so much used in Kinect 2, which does fancy stuff to recognize the “time of flight” for light projected on to the scene, and thus the distance. It’s supposed to have a much higher resolution as a result, as well as faster response.

        I’m tempted to get one just to play with it as a 3d scanner. I’m still hopeful that someday this stuff will be integrated into all smart phones, and we’ll be able to create 3d models of objects and spaces for use in games just by waving our phone around. If “project tango” and the oculus rift ever actually materialize, there’ll be cool stuff to be done! If the sensor were lighter I’d probably also try hanging it on a quadcopter drone. Maybe with a little plastic pruning.

        Edit: Also, of course, I could use it to retroactively add positional head tracking to my Rift dev kit 1, so I could actually use it for fifteen minutes without getting sick for two weeks afterwards. I find it hard to justify spending another $350 for a dev kit 2, but I could justify $200 to make my dev kit 1 usable *and* have 3d scanning, etc.

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    Lars Westergren says:

    > So this is about developers and apps, more than anything else. Not games

    That makes sense, as in the PC world all the neat Kinect stuff seemed to be in the “maker” sphere, either just fun artistic/creative stuff or as a cheap sensor for scientific research at universities and so on.

    I still think some cool games could be made with this once people discover how to use the interface intuitively, Double Fine’s kids game showed some of what was possible and was a joy to play I heard.

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      Bluerps says:

      I’ve seen several scientific projects in which the first Kinect saw use as a replacement for more expensive sensors. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new Kinect gets used in the same way.

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    Apparently it’s also reasonably decent for mocap on a budget. There’s some software that lets you use one or more Kinects to capture movement. Makes realistic human movement a bit more accessible for indies. I imagine this will be more precise with the new one.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Indeed. The Devs of the Satellite reign used Sony’s eye toy thing:

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      Gap Gen says:

      Does anyone know if there are good free packages out there for indie mocap? I’m vaguely tempted to try it out for that purpose, but a lot of the packages that use the Kinect cost as much as the Kinect themselves.

      • bj says:

        Assuming you mean the original Kinect, yes, but they may not be easy to work with depending on what other tools you use.

        It’s fairly straightforward to use Python to get the Kinect and Maya linked up to capture animation in real time – the Kinect does all the hard parts itself. There are similar scripts for Blender, but I’m not sure about everything else.

        The proprietary software is useful for automatically cleaning up the data and merging footage from multiple Kinects to allow for greater freedom of movement, and last time I messed with it there weren’t any free things that could do that. But that’s not really necessary for basic stuff, and averaging out the noise is something every animation tool should be able to do.

        It remains to be seen how enthusiastically this new one will be received, as official support is limited to Windows 8. Hopefully the same crowd which did such cool stuff with the original will get involved again.

  7. The Dark One says:

    If anything, $200 seems too low!

    https://www.google.com/atap/projecttango/

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      Gap Gen says:

      I suppose that’s a more compact version but sure, the tech seems very similar. Looking forward to how this and the VR thing pans out in the next decade or so.

  8. gschmidl says:

    So MS drop the Kinect from the Xbox One packages, lowering their price by $100, solder on an USB port, and sell it for $200. Brilliant.

    Not buying one. Ever.

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      welverin says:

      WHen I saw the headline all I could think was it cost twice what the Xbox One version does.

  9. rikvanoostende says:

    To me, Kinect still feels like an expensive solution to a non-existant problem…

  10. GallonOfAlan says:

    Have one on the 360. White elephant.

  11. InternetBatman says:

    This is good for developers, but I still think that a wii shaped controller has more potential. However, I wouldn’t mind a procedurally generated world mixed with vr with the player’s movements captured by a working Kinect.

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      Gap Gen says:

      The two things that make the Kinect stand out are a lack of need to hold something in your hands versus the ability to map any body motion. Granted, the Wii controller allows you to use it as a normal controller with buttons, but as a motion sensor the Kinect has more potential.

  12. PsychoWedge says:

    I don’t even remember Kinect 1 coming to PC… xD

  13. trooperwally says:

    One day I expect we’ll expect some motion recognition in all first person games. TrackIR looks like a pretty nifty and intuitive thing and kinect kinda generalises that tech but it needs someone to do something cool and pretty mainstream before it’ll catch on. The main issue I see is that I (and most people?) play PC games sat at a desk. That means that the only things moving are my hands and my head, and those bits aren’t moving a lot. I don’t really want to wave my arms around or stand up when gaming so it seems like the kinect is largely wasted on a PC. TrackIR tracks the bit that I might actually move intuitively anyway.

    TL;DR sounds like TrackIR is better for PC

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      Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, you’re right that jumping around is only really good for party games or whatever, and even the Wii is largely used with small wrist motions rather than flailing it around your head. I suppose if Kinect can get small motions it would work as a general input device. You could even imagine some kind of meta keyboard, tracking small finger motions or whatever, assuming it gets accurate enough. And it could presumably track small head motions, somehow, which is effectively what TrackIR does, but without the hat.

    • Zenicetus says:

      TrackIR is popular in the flight/space sim market because it maps perfectly to what you need motion tracking for, in that specific environment. Your hands are fixed to HOTAS controls, and the only other necessary motion is “eyes on target” during a dogfight. Or “eyes on the runway” flying patterns in a civilian sim.

      That’s really about all it’s good for, although I know it’s supported in a few other games like Arma, for looking around corners, I guess. But it’s useless for more generic PC games where player input translates to gunfights, swordfights, punching, or manipulating the environment with your hands

      That’s where Kinect might have a future, although I still don’t know if I’d want to spend hours swinging a virtual sword and shield around with my hands in the air, instead of resting on a mouse. Sounds tiring. And unless the tracking was tightly coupled to the game, using virtual hands to manipulate something in the environment could feel like the intentionally bad mapping in something like Surgeon Simulator.

  14. Syra says:

    Can you say “price discrimination”?

    • Baines says:

      Microsoft pretty much admitted to that from the beginning. The PC version with “official” support was being targeted at researchers, businesses, universities, and the like. Groups that would pay a much higher price tag because even $200 is cheap compared to (non-cobbled together) alternatives.

      • P.Funk says:

        I have a hard time believing that an Oculus Rift is going to be any cheaper. Just look at what people pay for brand new TrackIRs.

        Sometimes I think people want their cake for .99 and want to be able to eat it without cracking a tooth too.

        • Dozer says:

          TrackIR / NaturalPoint are patent-trolling anticompetitive bad guys. Don’t buy their stuff, instead, dismantle a cheap webcam and make your own head-tracker using free software.

          naturalpointofview.blogspot.com

  15. Sian says:

    Can’t say I’ll ever be interested in anything related to this technology. The few times I’ve tried always felt exceptionally silly and far from intuitive. I’m so used to mouse, keyboard and gamepad that THEY feel intuitive (which is also why Clang didn’t appeal to me).

    • Dozer says:

      I’ve never used a Kinect, but head-tracking in IL-2 Sturmovik to control the camera: absolutely bloody awful for about two weeks, and then it all kind of clicked.

  16. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Can This map my body into a game when using a Rift? If yes I might want one.

  17. PopeRatzo says:

    I would sooner own a lunchbox full of radioactive human waste.

    Microsoft does not have my best interest at heart when it comes to gaming. They can go bugger themselves.

  18. KevinLew says:

    I find it really bizarre that Microsoft continues to insist that full body motion control is a form of ideal fun, when the opposite is true. There’s been plenty of games made years ago with this kind of interaction. There’s golfing games where a camera records you swinging a real golf club, batting cage games where you swing a real bat, etc. None of these games ever gained any real traction and were deemed as interesting gimmicks that aren’t exactly fun.

    The worst part is that everybody seems to know that this is true. The games that use the Kinect a great deal are games designed for younger children, because they are the only ones that really enjoy the gimmick. All the other games seem to just tack on the feature, where the voice commands or whatever often accomplishes the same thing that a single button would do on any keyboard/mouse setup.

  19. Jimmy says:

    The Kinect has huge potential, but if it is not aligned with the next greatest gaming sensation or something, it will go the way of Microsoft’s very early development of touchscreens. The latter required the commercial savvy of Apple to become absolutely the latest most essential thing in an aggressive upgrade cycle, even through Gates had championed touchscreen interfaces in the early 90s.

    For gaming this could be great. Can you imagine FPS Chivalry with sweeping gestures instead of a mouse, ditto for Kingdom Come. Those sweeping strikes would be far more nuanced and less about timing your clicks around scripts. They should try and match a game like this around the Kinect 2.0, together with something like Mirror’s Edge, matching physicality to sensory perception.

    Really, we have to get beyond mouse and keyboard and engage with haptic feedback and full motion control to advance the potential of this technology, and of course, it is already potentially very useful for interface development (think Minority Report) matched to projections.