Microsoft has used it’s MIX 11 event in Las Vegas to detail what developers will be able to do to make the most of its Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 on their PCs when the software developer kit launches later this year.

Microsoft first confirmed that they were going to be offering an SDK in February, but have waited until now to break out more detail of what developers will and won't be able to do. 

Although there is some confusion as to when exactly the developer kit will actually come out (the official line is Spring by the way), that won’t stop devs getting excited about what they will be able to do.

According to Microsoft, the SDK will allow the following:

- The latest advances in audio processing, which include a four-element microphone array with sophisticated acoustic noise and echo cancellation for crystal clear audio.

- Sound source localization for beamforming, which enables the determination of a sound’s spatial location, enhancing reliability when integrated with the Microsoft speech recognition API.

- Depth data, which provides the distance of an object from the Kinect camera, as well as the raw audio and image data, which together open up opportunities for creating richer natural user interface experiences.

- Highly performant and robust skeletal tracking capabilities for determining the body positions of one or two persons moving within the Kinect field of view.

- Documentation for the APIs and a description of the SDK architecture.

- Sample code that demonstrates how to use the functionality in the SDK.

- Advanced Audio Capabilities, including four-element microphone array with sophisticated acoustic noise and echo cancellation for great audio; beam formation to identify the current sound source and integration with the Windows speech recognition API also included

- XYZ depth camera for standard color camera stream access and depth data that indicates the distance of the object from the Kinect camera

Onstage, Microsoft showcased compelling examples of what is possible using the SDK, including WorldWide Telescope and several community projects. Frog design inc. created a Kinect-powered “Wall Panic” PC game, in which players contort their bodies until they match a shape descending on a large screen. This work typifies the creative groundswell of Kinect usage scenarios being delivered by enthusiasts, developers and academics.

Microsoft, who’ve seen massive success with the launch of Kinect for the Xbox 360 before Christmas (10m plus sold) is still treading the waters slowly stating that the SDK is “intended for non-commercial use” at the moment that that really it’s just “to enable experimentation in the world of natural user interface experiences.”

Still with the device now coming out of the realms of the hacking crowd into those who can officially start to tinker with what is possible, it looks to be exciting times ahead for the device, developers, and those of us who fancy using our face and voice to interact with our computers.

Computer, Earl Grey, hot.