Earlier this month Microsoft announced the Kinect for Windows Commercial Program that will give businesses "the tools to develop applications that not only could improve their own operations, but potentially revolutionize entire industries." Following this announcement many wondered whether there would also be new PC-centric Kinect hardware in the offing. The company has now answered in the affirmative with confirmation that a new Kinect device with optimized hardware components and numerous firmware adjustments tailored for close up PC-user scenarios is on the way.

With the Kinect for 360 aimed at the wide open plains of the lounge room, the main changes to the Kinect hardware are designed to reflect the up close and personal nature of PCs. Actual hardware changes appear limited to a shorter USB cable and inclusion of a dongle to ensure the device plays friendly with PCs hosting a range of USB devices. Meanwhile, new firmware will enable a new "Near Mode" that will allow the device's depth camera to accurately see objects as close as 50 cm (19.6 in), with "graceful degradation down to 40 cm (15.7 in)."

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Microsoft expects Near Mode to usher in a new class of "close-up" applications to extend the possibilities of the device beyond the living room scenarios of the Kinect for Xbox 360. The company says this was one of the most requested features from those participating in the Kinect for Windows pilot program and users commenting on the forums.

After the initial reluctance of Microsoft to embrace the use of the Kinect beyond its originally intended purpose it's great to see the company truly embrace developers extending the use of the device. With some already impressive and out-of-the-box uses for the device developed, it should be interesting what kind of applications the Kinect for Windows hardware and Commercial Program inspires.

Source: Kinect for Windows blog