Kinect gets new SDK, higher-resolution competition

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.

Comments closed
    • PixelArmy
    • 7 years ago

    8 cubic feet? I don’t see this as competition… Unless you’re a contortionist.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 7 years ago

    As a game developer I am curious to see if it is possible to make a game that is so good with motion controls that it justifies the price of the extra hardware.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    And just like that MS’s new bragging toy was usurp by superior technology, price, and an open ended approach allowing people to utilize the device in anyway they see fit.

    Meanwhile MS was too busy trying to keep their toy exclusively attached to their Xbox milking system to actually care about the product.

    I still think stuff like this is frivolous as far as games and desktop activity goes, but when it comes to other industry areas it’s a really cool idea. Like operating heavy machinery in a intuitive manner, remote surgery, and brainstorming concepts. Like in Iron Man when Tony is messing with his inventions. Unfortunately there isn’t a viewing technology that can be matched with this yet.

      • Namarrgon
      • 7 years ago

      I think you missed the bit where (after some initial conflicting statements), Microsoft said, [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinect#Open_source_drivers<]"Yeah, go for it",[/url<], then released a full Kinect SDK for Windows a few weeks later.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        And you missed the bit where the kinect specific to windows is quite a bit more expensive then the xbox model.

    • I.S.T.
    • 7 years ago

    As a disabled gamer, I [i<]really[/i<] don't want motion controls to take over, especially mocap and Wii style wand stuff. In addition, I highly doubt The Leap is that good. Likely it captures stuff at a high resolution but with major input lag. It's the size of a USB stick, for christ's sakes. I just don't think it has the physical space in it to beat the hardware of the Kinect overall. That said, I'm saddened that the true potential of the Kinect will never be realized. The hardware originally was beefier, but was cut down for costs.

      • UberGerbil
      • 7 years ago

      What makes you think that the potential will never be realized? Eventually the equivalent of the original hardware will be cheaper than the current hardware is now.

        • I.S.T.
        • 7 years ago

        I meant the potential of the Kinect itself, not any future model.

      • Namarrgon
      • 7 years ago

      What makes you worried that motion gaming will take over? After years of Wii and Kinect, look at the top-selling titles. No motion anywhere. It has its place, but everyone knows it’s way too imprecise for anything except the most casual genres (Lair made that painfully clear).

      Kinect really shouldn’t be compared with this Leap thing. Kinect is designed for large areas, has a mic array, and heavy software support for skeletal capture and voice recog, not to mention 3yo tech. This is a much simpler device designed to work with volumes a fraction the size of Kinect, under very different conditions.

      Leap’s latency is far lower (as far as one can tell from the videos), but then it has very little software support either – all their demos are pretty low-level. I’m keen to play with one, but I’m cautious about its usefulness.

      • Darkmage
      • 7 years ago

      I wouldn’t worry too much.

      What really interests me about the Leap is the fine resolution. Not only will it enable more gesture controls, but it may enable facial expression tracking. Integrate that into your MMORPG or whatever online social gaming you prefer and you’re opening up some interesting possibilities.

      Likewise, imagine how it will improve the amateur animation industry. Combine it with the Expression Engine and push LA Noir-level animation into small game studios… lots of potential here.

      • flip-mode
      • 7 years ago

      Did you see any lag? I didn’t. There are more vids of Leap to be found. Looks stellar. Even made the morning news this morning.

        • UberGerbil
        • 7 years ago

        I’d wait for an independent review before jumping to any conclusions.

    • xtalentx
    • 7 years ago

    A mix of this and dragon naturally speaking – never need a mouse or keyboard again. Then I can use my hands for more interesting things…

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      like what?

        • xtalentx
        • 7 years ago

        Competitive rubik’s cube tournaments?

          • brute
          • 7 years ago

          maybe just working the rubiks tube with some rubiks lube

          • gmskking
          • 7 years ago

          Or professional cup stacking.

    • lycium
    • 7 years ago

    Why aren’t they “teasing” it like all the other companies…

    • flip-mode
    • 7 years ago

    I might jump on that Leap.

    [quote<]I have little desire to replace the keyboard and mouse that serve as the primary inputs for my desktop PC[/quote<] I think that once the Mocap tech reaches full maturity you'll probably be surprised that you ever made such a statement.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      I think frame rate is more important than resolution, kinect has crazy input lag.

        • DPete27
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, judging by the video, sampling rate leaves a bit to be desired. .01mm accuracy though, can I play decent first person shooters on my computer with a reference gun in one hand, then rotate hand to shoot gangster style!!!!!

        • gmskking
        • 7 years ago

        Should not have any lag. Unless of course you are hooking it up with a non-Microsoft USB cable.

          • axeman
          • 7 years ago

          Yes, because Microsoft usb cables are MAGIC!

          • Meadows
          • 7 years ago

          And a Monster cable too, surely.

        • axeman
        • 7 years ago

        That Microsoft Labs video posted a while back has me excited that they are actually doing R&D to deal with this. Even the Apple commercials that undoubtedly want to put the iPad in the best possible light make me chuckle, because the input lag is so apparent. I wonder if motion capture will be able to eliminate (well, get to an unnoticeable amount, anyhow) input lag before touch-screen interfaces do.

        • Meadows
        • 7 years ago

        You do realise that framerate theoretically has [i<]nothing[/i<] to do with input lag, right?

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          Theoretically, but not in practice in this case.

          Ok, fixing input lag is the most important thing, then resolution. Better?

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            Yes. The Kinect applications I’ve seen at a local tech department store had very good [i<]framerate[/i<], they were simply behind what the player was doing, by a good half second or so. Which is, coincidentally, atrocious.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            The programs’ frame rate is fine, the camera frame rate is not.

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            Now I see what you actually meant, and thus apologise.

      • axeman
      • 7 years ago

      I think MoCap is *much* more interesting than touch screen, because the applications won’t be so limited, (IMHO)

      • UberGerbil
      • 7 years ago

      Really? When Mocap tech reaches full maturity what kind of words-per-minute will I be able to input with it? How amenable will it be to code editing? I certainly am willing to entertain the idea that it will replace my mouse, but since text is still my personal primary input to PCs, and voice input has always failed for me rather badly, I don’t see my keyboard being relegated to secondary status anytime soon.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 7 years ago

      Just how hours per day do you think you are going to be able to flap your arms at your computer?

        • flip-mode
        • 7 years ago

        Effective satirical question, but also misleading. Are you really thinking that there will need to be continuous motion without rest and that I still won’t have a mouse and keyboard hooked up?

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