As touchscreens brought a revolution to smartphones, Kinect's motion sensing tech changed the way video games are being played. So, what can the Microsoft gadget do for the Windows PC? For sure, it will be about far more than just games.

Get Ready to Connect With Users

Kinect is a peripheral with a pair of video sensors for 3d motion capture of gestures and movements, a microphone to listen to what users say and an SDK for those inputs to be worked into any application you'd care to use. As swiping and pinching is natural on a tablet, waving and pointing could soon be common methods of PC interaction.

Already massive in the entertainment market, selling 18 million to gamers, Kinect offers the chance for developers to do something different. And, with demonstrations that the technology can be embedded into laptops, it could well become a staple part of the PC experience in future. Kiosk systems would become more fun to interact with, browsers could monitor what you're looking at to offer better designed sites, and so on.

So far the likes of Mattel and American Express have come up with some novel first applications, but from business to the consumer space, there is a great deal of room for innovation and invention.

Pointing to the Future?

A Kinect blog is up to show some early examples of what developers, media companies and others are doing. A lot of that early work came from hackers working with the Xbox version with the device offering a "near mode” which sees objects as close as 40 centimeters in front of the sensor; while "far mode" offers improved multi-skeletal tracking that enables control over which user is being tracked by the sensor; plus audio and voice recognition for auditory commands.

Learning Opportunities

The package comes with a commercial-ready installer for a Kinect for Windows runtime and driver components for end-user deployments.At $249, the hardware isn't exactly cheap right now, but if it could be integrated into systems, it could well be set for big things.

Windows 7 and 8 Support

With support for Windows 7 and the Windows 8 developer preview (desktop apps only, no Metro - yet!), Kinect for Windows will also support gesture and voice on Windows Embedded-based devices and will enhance how data is captured and accessed within intelligent systems across manufacturing, retailand many more industries. MSDN is having a Kinect day with details on the latest version of the SDK, with further reading links.

It would be good to see support in the next Office Edition for voice support and could be part of Microsoft's big Windows 8 push later in the year. If the PC is to survive in the battle of the tablets, perhaps Kinect's technology is just one small part of the key,  but its what developers do with it that will really matter.