Microsoft unveiled a PC version of their motion-sensing, voice activated, mind-reading Kinect camera at CES recently. It'll be out on February 1, which is exciting. The price tag is a bit problematic, however. It'll retail for $250, $100 more than it does on Xbox.
The main differences between PC Kinect and Xbox Kinect is a close-up mode that'll let it recognise nearby gestures, and an SDK kit to let programmers create applications to actually use the camera. The SDK, however, is already freely available on the Microsoft site (opens in new tab) . Why, then, is the PC version so expensive? And why should we think about buying one?
On the Microsoft blog , Kinect for Windows general manager Craig Eisler suggests that Kinect PC isn't expensive, it's the Xbox 360 version that's cheap, saying that Xbox Kinect is "in large part subsidized by consumers buying a number of Kinect games, subscribing to Xbox LIVE, and making other transactions associated with the Xbox 360 ecosystem."
Marketing senior director Jose Pinero told Gamespot that Kinect on PC, with its fatter price point, is aimed at companies looking to create "non-entertainment and non-gaming applications," which is an interesting angle on a device that has inspired some incredible gaming creations over the last year or so. It also implies that Microsoft have no plans to bring any of their Xbox Kinect games to PC.
Pinero mentions that Kinect has spurred interest in companies looking at Kinect as a useful training device and educational tool. It'll also be of great interest to educational institutions and robotics companies. Microsoft say that they'll be offering their clever camera to academics at a reduced price later this year.
So why should we care about Kinect? With a much higher price point, and few applications that actually use it, it's an unnecessary expense for most PC gamers right now. Its future is much more promising, however. Programmers and modders have already done amazing things with the device with no access to an SDK. We could see some fantastic software in future. A version of TrackIR that doesn't require a headset, perhaps, or voice activation mods like this one for Skyrim . We can look forward to plenty of gaming innovation from Kinect, it just won't be coming from Microsoft.