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.
Improvements to the Xbox 360 have apparently cut down on the number of "red ring of death" reports, but the console still requires more repairs than its competitors, according to data from PCMag's Readers' Choice Awards.
Approximately 10 percent of those polled for the survey reported having to take their Xbox 360 in for repairs over the last year, which was twice the rate of its competitors. However, that was a significant improvement over last year, when that number was 23 percent.
Many Xbox users are familiar with the console's "red ring of death," which replaced the glowing green center on the device's power button when the Xbox was on its last legs. Last year, former PCMag Editor Lance Ulanoff experienced the phenomenon after his son completed a Red Dead Redemption marathon on his Xbox 360. Though some Twitter users helpfully suggested that placing it in the freezer for a few minutes would solve the problem (really), he opted to send it in for repairs.
Last year, Microsoft unveiled a "slim" version of its Xbox 360 console at E3, which featured a redesigned case with a bit more ventilation than the original console. It included built-in 802.11n networking and a 250GB hard drive for $299.