2012 is shaping up to be a rather exciting year for Microsoft with Windows 8 on its way, possibly Windows Phone 8 sometime this year, Kinect for Windows, and the chance of an announcement of a next-generation Xbox (if rumors prove correct).
We are gradually seeing a shift away from Microsoft’s core focus as a OS company, yes it is still important but multimedia consumption and entertainment through the Xbox and even on the PC is going to become an even bigger affair.
I also suspect that cloud technologies is another great place for growth, outside of the traditional “Windows” line.
On the Kinect front, Microsoft has officially announced that the commercial version of “Kinect for Windows” is on its way sometime early this year.
The PC version will have a few differences in appearance from the Xbox version such as a shorter USB cable and new firmware for ‘close up’ apps.
According to Microsoft, the Kinect offers PC users (and developers) unique capabilities such as:
- Skeletal tracking
- Motion sensing
- Voice recognition
- Facial recognition
The Kinect on the PC will be about a lot more than just games with many different industries already picking up on the device for special uses.
For example, the Lakeside Center for Autism has found that the Kinect can be useful for helping children with autism, integrating Kinect’s full body play technology into their therapy sessions.
This is just one of the many innovative ways that the Kinect is being used. Other specialty uses will include navigating through MRIs at hospitals and even helping stroke patients.
According to the Kinect Blog, in order to spark innovation and creative through the use of the Kinect, the BizSpark Kinect Accelerator incubation program will give 10 tech-oriented companies that use Kinect (either Windows or Xbox 36) an investment of $20,000 each and other special benefits.
For those interested, applications are being accepted now through January 25th, 2012.
It is great to finally see the Kinect coming to Windows, and I really believe this is just the beginning.
As the technology evolves I expect the Kinect to evolve in capability and even find itself integrated in tablets, monitors, televisions, laptops, and maybe even someday in WP Smartphones.
Although specialty uses like those mentioned above are very important, I think the biggest impact will be on the average home user. I really think the unit will shine when it comes to navigating Windows 8’s Metro interface and playing games.
Imagine future Internet
Flash HTML5 games that all work with Kinect, this would certainly be a casual gamers dream I would think.
I also think that Xbox for Windows will finally add practicality to the “Windows Living Room PC”, for those who are power users and need more multimedia features than the Xbox 360 (and beyond) offer.
Imagine using the Kinect to browse through photo albums while sitting down, or flipping through news feeds on the Internet.
Imagine Siri-like functionality that allows surfing through voice and motion.
Overall though, I think Kinect for Windows won’t really get as much focus until Windows 8, where I think it will be huge. I have to wonder if Kinect for Windows will have its own mini-market store for Windows 7 or how they are planning to give users a way to get Kinect apps.
Again, this won’t be an issue for Windows 8 with its own market and likely Kinect support built in to most/all Metro apps.
My verdict is that there will be a few games that make use of Kinect for Windows early this year, and maybe an updated version of “Windows Media Center” for Windows 7 (maybe older versions too?) that offers some kind of voice/motion control.
What do you think?
Will Windows 7 (and earlier) offer much of an experience for Kinect or is it really not going to shine until Win8? Share your thoughts below.