Microsoft has confirmed that it is has optimized certain hardware components and made firmware adjustments to the existing Kinect for Xbox 360 device, which better enable PC-centric scenarios.
A few weeks ago Microsoft announced that the Kinect for Windows commercial program will launch in early 2012.
Simple changes to the existing Kinect for Xbox 360 device in order to be used under Windows 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. 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.
Microsoft also designed the Kinect for Windows commercial program to give its licensed customers access to ongoing updates in both speech and human tracking, in addition to providing fully supported Kinect hardware for Windows.
Microsoft also has just launched a new initiative, the Kinect Accelerator incubation project run by Microsoft BizSpark. BizSpark helps software startups through access to Microsoft software development tools, connection to key industry players (including investors) and by providing marketing visibility. The Kinect Accelerator will give 10 tech-oriented companies using Kinect (on either Windows or Xbox360) an investment of $20,000 each, plus a number of other great perks. Applications are being accepted now through January 25th, 2012. At the end of the program, each company will have an opportunity to present at an Investor Demo Day to angel investors, venture capitalists, Microsoft executives, media and industry influentials.