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Wednesday November 23, 2011 3:47 pm

Microsoft readying Kinect for Windows PCs


Kinect for Windows

Microsoft is adjusting firmware and optimizing certain hardware components to ready its Kinect motion-sensing input device for PCs running Windows, the company said Tuesday. Microsoft currently sells Kinect as a peripheral for its Xbox 360 game consoles, but has announced a Kinect for Windows commercial program that begins in early 2012.

"Coupled with the numerous upgrades and improvements our team is making to the Software Development Kit (SDK) and runtime, the new hardware delivers features and functionality that Windows developers and Microsoft customers have been asking for," Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows, wrote in a blog post.

"Simple changes 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 elaborated. "Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters. 'Near Mode' will enable a whole new class of 'close up' applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360. This is one of the most requested features from the many developers and companies participating in our Kinect for Windows pilot program and folks commenting on our forums, and we're pleased to deliver this, and more, at launch."

The announcement comes the same day that Microsoft acquired VideoSurf for $70 million with an eye towards integrating the San Mateo, Calif.-based company's online video search technology into its Xbox Live ecosystem.


VideoSurf, founded in 2006, "offers a back-end computer vision technology that 'sees' frames inside videos to make discovering content fast, easy and accurate," according to a statement released by the two companies Tuesday.

"VideoSurf's content analytics technology will enhance the search and discovery of entertainment content across our platform," said Alex Garden, director of Xbox Live for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business. "This holiday we will launch voice search across our entertainment partners on Xbox Live. Over time, as we integrate VideoSurf's technology into our system, we are excited about the potential to have content tagged in real time to increase the speed and relevance of the search results.

Microsoft said the acquisition would "make it easier for world-class video partners to take full advantage of advanced features such as voice search enabled by Kinect for Xbox 360." The software giant plans to integrate voice search powered by its own Bing search engine with Kinect.

It's all part of a sweeping overhaul Microsoft is readying for its Xbox system and Xbox Live gaming network, set for Dec. 6, which also includes a major revamp of the Xbox Live navigation system.

Microsoft also said it is bringing "nearly 40 world-leading TV and entertainment providers to Xbox Live" in the next few months, including Bravo, Comcast, HBO GO, Verizon FiOS, and Syfy in the U.S.; BBC in the U.K.; Telefónica in Spain; Rogers On Demand in Canada; Televisa in Mexico; ZDF in Germany; and Mediaset in Italy.

"Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Division is at the leading edge of connected entertainment," said Lior Delgo, CEO and co-founder of VideoSurf, in the joint statement with Microsoft. "We are incredibly excited to be working together on our mutual passion for creating amazing consumer experiences and reinventing how consumers search, discover and enjoy content on their televisions."

This article, written by Damon Poeter, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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