Kinect gets new SDK, higher-resolution competition


— 11:53 AM on May 24, 2012

Earlier this week, Microsoft released a new SDK for its Kinect motion controller. Version 1.5 adds numerous enhancements, including face tracking functionality that can keep tabs on small details like the state of a user's eyebrows. Seated skeletal tracking is now supported, and it works in the "near mode" designed for desktop users. The updated skeletal tracking system provides joint orientation information, as well.

Other improvements are mentioned, such as better performance and image quality. There's also a new tool that can capture and play back Kinect data streams, which should help developers test and refine their code. Microsoft calls the new SDK a "significantly enhanced version of Kinect," but it's not the only one dabbling in PC motion controls.

This week also marked the unveiling of the Leap, a competing motion controller that's purportedly 200 times more accurate than "anything else on the market." The company behind the device, which is about the size of a chunky flash drive, claims it can track movements down to 0.01 millimeters within an interaction area of 8 cubic feet. Check out the accompanying video:

The Leap will cost $70, which is a lot less than the Kinect motion sensor. It will plug in via USB, and multiple devices can apparently be linked together to form a larger interaction area. Interested developers can apply for the dev kit, which is scheduled to ship in the next three months. Ordinary consumers will have to wait until at least December to get their hands on—or wave them in front of—the Leap.

While I have little desire to replace the keyboard and mouse that serve as the primary inputs for my desktop PC, motion controls would be a nice addition to the mix. The Leap's high resolution and low cost may give it an edge over Kinect. However, the Microsoft motion controller will surely enjoy a larger development community, and it may be the more flexible solution overall. Either way, Minority Report-style interfaces probably aren't too far off.

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