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The original Kinect sensor for Xbox 360.

Microsoft plans to develop a version of its Kinect hardware especially for Windows, with new capabilities and specifications to make the sensor work in a wider variety of settings as more people start using Kinect to control their Windows PCs with gestures and voice.

The original Kinect device was made for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console.

The company’s Kinect for Windows team announced the plan in a post today. Changes will include new firmware that will let the Kinect’s depth sensor see objects as close as 50 centimeters. The new Near Mode “will enable a whole new class of ‘close up’ applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360,” writes Craig Eisler, Kinect for Windows general manager, in the post.

Simple changes will include shortening the USB cable “to ensure reliability across a broad range of computers and the inclusion of a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals,” Eisler writes.

The Kinect for Windows team is expanding and has been recruiting engineers this week with a novel technique — a bacon cart near Amazon and Google locations in Seattle, as reported by the Seattle Times.

No word yet on when the Kinect for Windows sensor will be released or how it will be made available.

Microsoft will also give its licensed commercial customers access to regular updates in the speech and tracking technology.

The company in June released a software development kit for Kinect on Windows for academics and researchers, and the program is scheduled to expand to licensed commercial applications early next year.

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