Microsoft has confirmed that it will release an SDK for its Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 allowing developers to create third party applications for the motion controller on other devices like the PC and Mac.
The new Software Development Kit will be released in March and be limited to non-commercial use to start with, however Microsoft has said that it will bring a commercial version out as well so developers can make money from their work.
The release of the SDK will allow for custom PC applications using the motion-sensing and voice recognition technology inside the Kinect sensor.
“Breaking - Microsoft opens up Kinect to hacker community, rolling out Software Dvelopment Kit for personal use,” reports BBC’s tech man Rory Cellan-Jones, via Twitter before going on to add, “Microsoft opens up Kinect SDK for personal use this Spring - commercial version later.”
Cellan-Jones is currently on a behind the scenes tour of Microsoft’s Redmond campus tweeting from behind closed doors.
The session was hosted by Don Mattrick, Microsoft's video-game chief, and Craig Mundie, the company's chief research and strategy officer.
"We think we're going to see a huge explosion in interest," said Craig Mundie, the company's chief research and strategy officer to Todd Bishop who was also in the room. "We welcome that and will support it."
At CES in January Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed to BBC Click that Kinect is going to be PC-compatible. When asked if we'd eventually be able to plug the Kinect into a PC he replied:
"We'll support that in a formal way, in the right time."
Before that revelation he had hinted that Kinect was about more than just gaming. "We're trying to do two major things," he said. "We're trying to move beyond gaming - to include the world of socialisation movies, TV and music - and we're trying to make the whole experience accessible to everybody in the family, not just the traditional gamers."
Back in August at Gamescom 2010, Microsoft's Kinect guru Kudo Tsunoda told Pocket-lint that the opportunities for Kinect stretched beyond just gaming.
"It's all stuff that you could integrate into a multitude of devices, whether it's phones or it's PC's, or anything that requires some sort of input," he said.
"It's all stuff that you could work into phones as well if you wanted to...if like you worked at a company that did stuff with phones and PCs then maybe something like that would be possible".
We think he knew then more than he was letting on...
UPDATE: Microsoft has sent us an official statement:
"Today, Microsoft announced it will release a non-commercial Kinect for Windows software development kit from Microsoft Research later this spring. The intent of releasing a “starter kit” for application developers is to make it easier for academic research and enthusiast communities to create even richer experiences using Kinect technology.
"The Kinect for Windows SDK from Microsoft Research is being developed and released by Microsoft Research (MSR) in collaboration with the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB) to support a growing community of academic researchers and enthusiasts who are exploring potential applications built using Kinect.
"The starter kit will give academic researchers and enthusiasts access to deep Kinect system capabilities such as audio, system APIs, and direct control of the sensor. Microsoft will deliver a commercial version of the SDK later. There are no further details to share at this time.
"Microsoft has deep investments in R&D in natural user interfaces (NUI). NUI is part of the company’s long term vision of creating computers that are intuitive to use and able to do far more for us. The fruits of those investments manifesting across many of Microsoft’s products, including Kinect for Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7, Microsoft Surface 2.0, Bing for Mobile and Office 2010 Mini Translator.
"This announcement of the Microsoft Kinect for Windows SDK reflects Microsoft’s desire to unleash the magic of the NUI technology to a broader set of academic researchers and the enthusiasts by empowering them with the tools to create exciting applications with the use of Kinect technology."