Now that touchscreens have begun permeating the landscape, gesture control looks like the next frontier for PC input technology. Systems based on AMD's Richland APUs will come with gesture control software that relies on webcam input. In just a couple of months, Leap is set to start selling high-resolution gesture tracking hardware at Best Buy. And then there's Microsoft's Kinect, which started on the Xbox 360 and has been available for the PC for some time. A new version of the Kinect for Windows SDK was released today, and Microsoft is calling it the most significant update since the original developer kit was came out last year.
Microsoft's Kinect for Windows blog has the goods on version 1.7 of the SDK, which includes a collection of core interface gestures in addition to a nifty 3D mapping tool. Dubbed Kinect Interactions, the interface gestures were designed to standardize core functions, allowing application developers to focus on other elements of their software. Among the gestures is a push motion used to activate buttons and a hand wave that identifies the primary user when more than one person is in view. Also included is a grip motion that can be used for panning or built into a zooming function.
The SDK's new Kinect Fusion 3D mapping tool has nothing to do with motion control. Instead, it uses images from the motion controller's camera to generate 3D renderings of real-world objects. The renderings are created and updated in real time, giving Kinect Fusion intriguing potential for a range of applications. While the 3D renderings look fairly low-resolution, Microsoft says its partners have been asking for the functionality. 3D scanners aren't cheap, and the Kinect for Windows kit costs only $230.
Current Kinect hardware is more than two years old, so it seems likely a higher-resolution version will be released alongside the next-generation Xbox console. Given how much Microsoft has been encouraging Kinect application development on the PC, I'm sure we'll get an updated version of the motion tracker, as well. What's unclear is how long it will take for someone to come up with a killer application that makes everyday folks want to add Kinect to their PCs. Minority Report-style hand waving probably isn't going to cut it. I can see some potential in simple gestures that can be performed with one's hands hovering just above the keyboard, though. Thanks to The Verge for the tip.