Kinect originally debuted as an Xbox 360 accessory for motion sensing so you could control games with your hands or body. While it was a successful console accessory initially, its bundling and lack of games with the Xbox One forced Microsoft to rethink its entire approach to Kinect. Microsoft is now packaging up all of its impressive work with Kinect into a tiny sensor that it’s hoping businesses will now pick up and use.
Dubbed the Azure Kinect Developer Kit (DK), the PC peripheral includes Microsoft’s latest AI sensors like the time-of-flight depth sensor in the HoloLens 2, and a 7-microphone array for computer vision and speech purposes. It also includes a 12-megapixel RGB camera and a 1-megapixel depth camera. Developers were already using Kinect sensors for research, apps, and many other alternative uses, and this smaller sensor should open Kinect up to even more uses.
Microsoft’s big push here is that Kinect will be powered by the power of the cloud, and used for AI purposes. That will allow developers to use less power in potential applications, and use AI on depth images to deploy AI algorithms on smaller networks. The sensor itself can be used on its own, or paired with other Azure Kinect sensors to create a 3D map of a room.
It’s early days for this cloud-powered Kinect sensor, but Microsoft already has a partner using it in healthcare. Ocuvera is using the Azure Kinect sensor to stop patients from falling in hospitals. With a combination of AI algorithms, the sensor can determine if a patient is about to fall and alert a nurse before the fall takes place.
Microsoft is making the Azure Kinect DK available for preorder today for $399, and it will be available in the US and China initially.