Among the array of new features unveiled at Microsoft’s Xbox One revealing on Tuesday were the upgrades to the new Kinect sensor.
Today Microsoft announced that same improvements to the motion-tracking system for Xbox will be coming to the next-generation Kinect for Windows and will arrive on shelves at some point next year. Microsoft wouldn’t disclose details about price or distribution plans.
The new Kinect will ship with every Xbox One later this year and offer several updated visual and audio capabilities over the original Kinect, including how it senses people and objects in a room, as well as the ability to detect heart rate.
Specific capabilities of the new Kinect for Windows include:
Higher fidelity: The new HD camera will allow the Kinect to better detect precise motions and sounds.
Expanded field of view: This will give the Kinect greater flexibility for different-sized rooms.
Improved skeletal tracking: The new Kinect will track more points on the body, and it will also be able to detect up to six people on the screen.
New active IR: The new Kinect will be able to detect movement in any lighting conditions, including the dark.
“We really see Kinect as the eyes and ears of computers,” Director of Kinect for Windows Bob Heddle told us. “The new capabilities will let computers be much smarter and let them better understand the people in the room.”
Heddle said that Microsoft has seen more than 500,000 downloads of the Kinect for Windows SDK so far and said that it’s now available in 38 markets wordwide. Brands like Nissen, Siemens, Build-a-Bear and Kaplan Early Learning Company have all been using the Kinect for Windows. Some of the more interesting use cases, Heddle said, have come from interactive retail experiences, rehabilitation and fitness, and education.
“The new capabilities of the sensor will dramatically benefit all those uses cases,” he said.
The fact that the Kinect updates are coming to Windows was expected, especially considering some of Microsoft’s long term motion-tracking plans. The company envisions every surface becoming a potential display, thanks to new screen technologies and projection systems. This is one of the reasons that Microsoft acquired large-screen technology company Perceptive Pixel last year.
In addition, Microsoft sees embedded sensors becoming a common part of displays and PCs, giving people new ways of interacting with their computers, using gestures and voice commands as they can today with the standalone Kinect devices for Xbox and Windows.
“Computers are blind and deaf right now,” Heddle said. “It’s kind of amazing — we consider them to be incredibly smart devices, but just think about what computers can do when they can truly see or hear or understand what’s going on around them. It’s going to be an incredible change with how people interact and it’s going to make computers seem a whole lot smarter.”
Heddle said many more details about the new Kinect for Windows will come at the June 26 BUILD conference in San Francisco.
Previously on GeekWire: Microsoft’s new vision: A big screen on every wall, and a Kinect sensor in every bezel