Monday, February 21, 2011

Windows Drivers for Kinect, Finally!

Yay! This makes me happy.  Microsoft officially announces support for Windows Drivers for the Kinect Camera as a free download in the Spring.

This was something I was pushing really hard on in the last few months before my departure, and I am glad to see the efforts of colleagues in the research wing of Microsoft (MSR) and the XBox engineering team carry this to fruition.  It's unfortunate this couldn't have happened closer to launch day. But, perhaps it took all the enthusiasm of the independent developer community to convince the division to do this. It certainly would have been nice if all this neat work was done on Microsoft software platforms.

I actually have a secret to share on this topic. When my internal efforts for a driver stalled, I decided to approach AdaFruit to put on the Open Kinect contest.  For obvious reasons, I couldn't run the contest myself. Besides, Phil and Limor did a phenomenal job, much better than I could have done. Without a doubt, the contest had a significant impact in raising awareness about the potential for Kinect beyond Xbox gaming both inside and outside the company. Best $3000 I ever spent.

In my opinion, all the press coverage around the independent projects brought a lot of additional positive attention to the product launch.  That unto itself became the topic of international news.

But to take this even further, it would be awesome if Microsoft went so far as to hold a small conference to actually showcase people doing interesting projects with Kinect.  It is a really great device, and such an outreach program would give Microsoft an opportunity to engage with very enthusiastic partners to potentially build new applications around it both inside and outside of gaming.  At the very least, it would be a cheap way to recruit potential hires.

There are lots of smart people outside of Microsoft that would like to build interesting stuff with it. Most of it probably won't be a "Microsoft-scale" business initially, but worth enabling and incubating in aggregate.  Though, a large portion of the expert community is already using the Kinect camera in their own projects on just about every OS and every develoment tool in existence.  So, Microsoft will need to give researchers and independent developers a reason to go back to thier platform - be it opportunities to engage with people at Microsoft/MSR, other Kinect developers, or opportunities to share thier work though larger distrubtion channels such as XNA, app stores, or XBox downloadable games.   We have just seen the beginning of what can be done with low-cost depth cameras.


Anonymous said...

wow, a M$$$ engineer posted 3000 $$$ against the corporate policy of M$$$. This is priceless.

Kyle Machulis said...

Wow. An MS employee funds the project, and 2 of us leading the community (JoshB and I) are ex-MS (and JoshB is still heavily MS-focused). Crazy how things work out sometimes. :)

Thanks for putting up the cash. Assuming you're at Google in the Bay Area, I owe you a beer sometime. :)

Unknown said...

Thank you JC!

You continue to be a huge inspiration, and it was sad to see your passion and ingenuity leave the Natal / Kinect project. Any word on XNA CTP integration? Hope your having fun at th' GOOG ..

-- Chuan said...

its really informative and intersting man keep it up :)

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Stacy Devino said...

This is amazing, thanks for "coming out" for us. Sometimes it takes someone on the inside to know what it is capable of and then get the outside "in" to do the job. They never seem to listen when your are on the inside, you know?

I am a young engineer who had the luck of starting in a soft economy, so there is no way that I could scrape $3k together. I am however, extremely happy that someone did!

Still, can't yet afford to buy a Kinect....sad right? Stupid school loans...

Love your blog and look forward to seeing more of this in the future!

NLi10 said...

You are still a legend. Google is lucky to have you - does make me wonder what they have up their sleeves!

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miguel said...

You certainly do know about the OpenNI project, NITE middleware and all that, don't you? Sure, this project being pushed by Microsoft (and probably for Microsoft users) will probably flourish as lots of indie games using the Kinect, but I really do regret that it will also take some people away from OpenNI and thus multiplatform development.

Also, there's also a lot of people working on really neat robotics stuff using the Kinect. Check the entries to the ROS 3D (see the winners) contest for some really nice examples. Those, in turn, won't work on Windows without some tweaking, though.

Bakamoichigei said...

Wow. I can't believe an MS engineer put up the cash for the bounty. Good on you, man.

I don't own any current gen game consoles, and I don't have any interest in the X-Box, but when I saw what people were doing with the Kinect, I decided I had to get one.

Especially with Jasper Brekelmans' motion capture and object scanning applications, as I am primarily a 3D artist (Though also an electronics hobbyist and amateur engineer) and have lots of things I want to do...things that would be easier if I could mocap character animation. ;D

It took me a couple-few months with the way money is these days, but I finally got my hands on a Kinect, and I can't wait to get even more functionality out of it.

I think I speak for everyone when I say we really owe you for getting the ball rolling. :)