Microsoft revived Kinect yesterday at the company's HoloLens 2 press event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The software giant has shrunk Kinect into a $ 399 PC peripheral that can be used as a sensor, much as developers have used Kinect for Windows or even the original Xbox 360 Kinect. Microsoft has designed this new Kinect to be used primarily with Azure, the company's cloud-based service, for image processing and language models.
At the Mobile World Congress today, I took a closer look at Microsoft's new Azure Kinect DK, and I'm surprised how much smaller it is compared to the Kinect for Windows sensor. It's also much lighter (440 grams vs. 970 grams) and more powerful thanks to a range of upgraded hardware. Compared to the 4-microphone array of the previous Kinect device, there is a 7-microphone array and an upgraded RGB camera with 3840 x 21
Microsoft plans to release a set of SDKs for this new Azure Kinect DK Developers will need to port all existing Kinect for Windows apps to this new platform as they will not work directly with this new Kinect model. There's a new Sensor SDK, a Body Tracking SDK, Vision APIs, and a voice service SDK for Azure Kinect DK. Microsoft has not yet released all SDKs, but pre-orders for this $ 393 Kinect have already begun. It is expected to ship to developers at the end of June.
Microsoft has a number of examples of how developers will use the Azure Kinect DK from retail through manufacturing to healthcare. In retail stores, developers could use this new Kinect to track products and manage inventory. Thanks to the body tracking support, the product could even be used in cashiers. Similar to the original Kinect, the use cases depend on how the creative developers get this latest model.
This new Kinect sensor does not replace Kinect for Xbox. It is not intended for use with an Xbox, but developers can use it with or without Azure. I've tried a quick demonstration of the body tracking features of the new Kinect and how much I could jump with the new SDKs that will be available when the device ships in late June. It reminded me a lot of the early Kinect demonstrations, but Microsoft now has a much smaller sensor and a clear goal for which the Kinect should be used. It's no longer a gaming peripheral, it's a big part of the company's "third era" with HoloLens and the big Azure cloud push.