In a "treat, not trick" move appropriate for the day (Halloween) in which it occurred, Microsoft officially announced on October 31 that (as had already been suspected) it is planning to release a commercial version of the Kinect SDK early next year. As I mentioned in earlier coverage, the current "beta" tag translates into a $0 price tag but also means that the SDK (which has also been fully integrated within the Robotics Studio developer suite) is intended for hobbyists, researchers and other non-revenue applications.

Speaking of the SDK, a few days later Microsoft upgraded it to Beta 2 status. You can download it here. According to Engadget's coverage, "the refreshed build includes faster skeletal tracking, a better accuracy rate when it comes to skeletal tracking and joint recognition, and the ability to plug and unplug your Kinect without losing work / productivity." And The Verge chimes in that it also includes support for the Windows 8 Developers Preview.

But wait, there's much more! (I now feel like a television commercial hawking Ginsu knife sets) November 4 marked the one-year anniversary of Kinect's sales start in North America, and in commemoration of the event, Microsoft launched the Kinect For Windows website, along with a blog (currently containing a scant single entry) and a new Kinect-dedicated Twitter feed, @KinectWindows, replacing the former @KinectSDKTeam.

And what might you use the upcoming commercial SDK to implement (and the current beta SDK to prototype)? Microsoft is assuredly glad you asked, and has plenty of ideas; check out the polished "Kinect Effect" video at the top of this page. Bonus-point kudos go to Microsoft for a catchy soundtrack, the Vitamin String Quartet‘s cover of The Pixies; "Where Is My Mind?"

As it turns out, though, another company has similar commercial SDK aspirations. Engadget directed me this morning to Evoluce, who has already developed the "Win & 1" Kinect-augmented interface for Windows 7. The press release on the company website is in German; the company's blog offers an English translation, along with a download link to the currently-free beta SDK. And here's a demonstration video:

I forwarded a link to the Engadget writeup to BDTI engineer Eric Gregori, and he responded with some informative comments (my clarifications of the following quotes are in brackets). As with Microsoft's SDK, he noted, "it requires Windows 7 and vs2010 [Visual Studio 2010]." He also observed, "it uses OpenNI [Open Natural Interaction] and NITE [PrimeSense's middleware] for its framework."

I confess that it's not particularly clear to me why someone would want to use something other than the "official" Microsoft SDK for Kinect (or, perhaps the open-source community's alternative), unless a Evoluce (or other) alternative was either a) more featured, b) less expensive or c) eventually supported O/Ss other than Windows 7. But perhaps someone from Evoluce will see this post and respond in the comments?

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