By Jared Newman | Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm
The most exciting thing about Microsoft’s Kinect is not that you can play a dancing game on the Xbox 360 without a controller, but that dozens of hackers have re-purposed the motion-sensing camera for their own wildly creative ideas.
Come this spring, Microsoft will make life a little easier for these enthusiasts with a non-commercial Kinect software development kit. But note the distinction here: a non-commercial SDK means that anyone who uses it can’t legally sell what they’ve created. The all-important commercial SDK is coming “at a later date.”
Why is the commercial SDK so crucial? Because once Microsoft gives people a financial incentive, you’ll start seeing Kinect-based products that non-hackers will actually want to use. And once that happens, Microsoft will probably want to earn money on those creations through some kind of application store. That’s when you’ll really see the practical, not-strictly-gaming uses of Kinect take off.
For now, the non-commercial SDK is as much as symbolic gesture as it is a useful tool; Microsoft got egg on its face in November after saying that it would “work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.” As soon as hackers roundly ignored that threat and started tinkering, it became obvious that Microsoft would be foolish to try and stop them, or even to scold them. An official software development kit sends the message that Microsoft likes what it’s seeing so far.