Enterprising PC users have been doing very cool things with the Kinect motion controller that Microsoft sells for its Xbox 360 console. Redmond was quick to encourage hackers and even said the device's interface was left open to make meddling easier. After promising an official developer kit, Microsoft has finally released a beta version of the Kinect for Windows SDK. The ~22MB download is available free of charge in 32- and 64-bit flavors. You'll need to be running Windows 7 along with a 2010 edition of Visual Studio, though.
The SDK offers access to raw data captured by Kinect's depth sensor, color camera, and microphone array. You also get skeletal tracking for up to two people and a handful of audio processing goodies that'll cancel echoes, supress noise, and figure out which of those two skeletons is talking. Sample code and some pretty extensive documentation are a part of the package, as well.
Interestingly, the SDK is licensed for "non-commercial use only." A commercial SDK is coming, but Microsoft warns that applications created with the beta won't necessarily port over nicely.
Restrictions aside, the release of an official SDK can only serve to further popularize Microsoft's motion controller, which has sold more than 10 million units since being introduced in November of last year. I wonder how many of those will end up hooked up to a PC.