Microsoft Kinect is Accelerating to Escape Velocity

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The Microsoft Kinect was released on November 4th 2010 for a list price of $150. Just days later as the device was on its way to break unimaginable sales records someone else did some breaking of their own. Well not breaking per se instead hacking. Hector Martin hacked the Kinect using an unencrypted USB stream to collect enough system data for him to craft a useable driver which could run open source devices. Martin collected the $3,000 prize sponsored by Adafruit industries. Ironically it came out in February that a Microsoft developer Johnny Lee (now hanging his hat in Mountain View with Mr. Page and Mr. Brin) actually the source of the prize money. Although he acted on his own Lee’s efforts contributed at least in part to big wigs in Redmond changing their tune regarding open source Kinect development.

See at first Microsoft lambasted the efforts of hackers and DIYers to use the Kinect for unintended purposes. However, after the release of Martin’s drivers MS started to catch wind on how popular websites like Open Kinect.org and Kinecthacks.net were actually becoming. The launch window was opened even further as notable universities such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Stanford all had undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students jumping in waist deep writing papers and starting up Kinect projects of their own. So in February 2011 Microsoft announced that an official Windows SDK would be released for the Kinect in June. The SDK was released as a beta and gave users access to sensor streams, skeletal tracking, enhanced audio, prolific code amounts of code and documentation and included a simple and stable installer which is typically the bane of most beta releases.

The Kinect was picking up even more speed and after the fanfare of them breaking the world record for sales the company made yet another step to embrace outside the box thinking and community development by establishing the Imagine Cup. As I talked about in a previous post the Imagine Cup is an international technology competition for students. The goal of the competition is to have them create technology solutions that address a significant problem in the world. Of course, as expected, many of the entrants used the Kinect as part of their proposed solutions. One of the teams using the Kinect moved onto becoming a finalist. The winner of the Imagine Cup will be announced in Sydney, Australia next month.

SDKs and Science competitions are all well and good but I don’t see the getting the Kinect to the next level. This is likely what Microsoft thought when they started the the Kinect Accelerator.

The Kinect Accelerator is a collaborative effort between Microsoft BizSpark and Tech Stars both of which are aimed towards supporting promising technology startups. This program looks to be a winner and could provide the necessary boost Microsoft needs to really bring the Kinect and Gesture Recognition into the mainstream. Basically the program works like this, companies will submit their application, ten will be selected, and they will be given $20,000 to spend over 3 months. That’s not all though flush with coin these startups will also be given “an Xbox development kit, the Windows Kinect SDK, office space, all the resources of BizSpark, technical training and support, and mentorship from entrepreneurs, investors and Microsoft executives intensely focused on making their business a success. If that’s not sweet enough upon completion of their 3 month stint at the MS brain trust “each company will have an opportunity to present at an Investor Demo Day to angel investors, venture capitalists, Microsoft executives, media and industry influentials.” WOW!!! How awesome is that?
This goes to show that Microsoft has come a long way in only 13 months with the Microsoft Kinect on the market. What’s even more surprising is none of this was planned. Microsoft though is happy to be taking this rocket ride. I mean come on now…just take a look at the 2011 Black Friday numbers. All of this makes it abundantly clear that Microsoft isn’t looking to level off anytime soon but instead they’re trying to accelerate to escape velocity!