Microsoft Kinect, the no-hands gaming peripheral for Xbox 360, is to see a move over to Windows PCs come early 2012, and in the process it'll be gaining new hardware improvements.

We've seen the Kinect on a PC many times before with hackers porting the device to use in a variety of weird and wonderful ways, however now that a dedicated piece of kit is coming, this kind of innovation should become far more prevalent.

In fairness we've known about the upcoming launch of Kinect for PC for some time, but never had a date stamped on it. The CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, letting the cat out of the bag at CES 2011, saying: "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.

"It's all stuff that you could integrate into a multitude of devices, whether it's phones or it's PCs, or anything that requires some sort of input."

Improvements to the dedicated Kinect for PC will include a shorter USB cable and dongle which will allow for improved coupling with other USB devices, whilst an improvement to the depth camera will enable the Kinect to track objects as close as 50cm in front of the device without losing accuracy. 

The new close-up limit will be 40cm with a "graceful degradation" down to that lower limit. This "near mode" will deliver a new range of close-up applications.

However, one of the most important aspects of the update is the way Microsoft is continuing to support developers, "giving licensed customers access to ongoing updates in both speech and human tracking (where Microsoft has been investing for years), in addition to providing fully supported Kinect hardware for Windows." Confirming its commitment to developing its natural user interface (NUI).

This coupled with its open SDK released earlier in the year should ensure that the device will see continued interest and uptake. Microsoft hasn't put a foot wrong with this one. Next step: Kinect on your mobile phone.