While the Kinect might have been 'hacked' early on, with plenty of intriguing homebrew software showcasing potential beyond most concepts MS has in current retail software, everything had to be done via custom tools and without access to Microsoft's skeletal tracking software. However, the company did officially state that they 'intended' Kinect to effectively become an open system of sorts, allowing home users to spurn their creativity in producing software for the device. And now that is finally become a reality.
Today, Microsoft revealed that it would be releasing a non-commercial version of the Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) at some point this spring, with a fully-fledged commercial version coming further on down the line.
"Microsoft's investments in natural user interfaces are vital to our long-term vision of creating computers that are intuitive to use and able to do far more for us. The fruits of these research investments are manifesting across many of our products, Kinect for Xbox 360 among them."
The company hopes that this will bring about an influx in new controls interfaces being developed, many of which could lead to even better Kinect gaming experiences. Although, it also appears that Windows-based applications are initially as important here. The fact that Windows 8 is hotly debated to have some kind of camera-based motion control as standard, and that the initial run of SDKs is aimed at the non-commercial, academic market shows that MS are covering all bases.
The release of the non-commercial SDK is primarily aimed at academic research companies and home enthusiasts, giving them a range of tools to make starting out developing for the device a lot easier. Whereas, with the commercial SDK release afterwards, creators and companies can produce retail products which use the device, much like in the way XNA allows smaller teams and individuals create Xbox 360 experiences on a budget.
Currently the kit only concerns Windows development and not development for the actual Xbox 360 console it self. It is perhaps more likely that MS will expand the XNA program to include a Kinect component to that SDK, rather than allow full access to the console's development environment.