Microsoft's about-face in relation to the "modification of its products" - specifically its Kinect sensor - is complete with the company releasing the official Kinect for Windows SDK beta. When the motion controller was initially released and hackers set about creating open source drivers for the device, Microsoft responded saying it didn't condone such actions. But it has since changed its tune, even going so far as to invite a group of developers to its Redmond campus for a live 24-hour coding marathon to build concept applications using the SDK.

Since the release of the Kinect seven months ago and the subsequent creation of open source drivers just three hours after its European release, the controller-free gaming device has been appropriated for a range of purposes, including a Minority Report-style user interface for Windows 7, a prototype hands-free controller for operating theaters, and as a mobility aid for the visually impaired, just to name a few.

Now developers, academics and enthusiasts will find it even easier to take advantage of the Kinect's depth sensing, human motion tracking and voice and object recognition capabilities when building applications with C++, C# or Visual Basic, thanks to help files and detailed documentation including detailed walkthroughs of samples provided with the official SDK.

The SDK, which works with Windows 7, includes drivers and will provide developers with direct access the raw data streams from the Kinect's depth sensor, color camera sensor, and four-element microphone array. It also includes the capability to track the skeleton image of one or two people, while audio capabilities include noise suppression and echo cancellation, integration with the Windows speech recognition API and beam formation to identify the current sound source.

Highlights from the 24-hour "Code Camp," where a group of developers invited to the Microsoft campus in Redmond were asked to build concept applications using the SDK, can be viewed on the Microsoft News Center.

The Kinect for Windows SDK beta is available now as a free download from Microsoft for the creation of noncommercial applications. A commercial version of the SDK will be available some time in the future.