If You Can’t Beat ‘Em… Microsoft to Release SDK for Kinect

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Microsoft’s made history with the record-setting launch of the Kinect sensor for their Xbox 360. While the games released at launch were generally a bit twee, much of the buzz around the device came from hackers who made Kinect useful in ways that weren’t necessarily intended. Everything from holography to Super Mario interoperability to was proven possible with Kinect. Those hacks came courtesy of homebrew drivers that bubbled up after website iFixit put up a bounty on Kinect.

(More on TIME.com: Strong Kinect-ion?: First Impressions of Microsoft’s New Motion-Control Camera)

Now, the powers that be in Redmond have announced that they’ll be releasing an SDK (software development kit) for their motion-sensing wonder this spring.  From the official Microsoft release:

Kinect for Xbox 360 and the potential seen within its core technology have captured the imaginations of the academic research and enthusiast communities. To encourage and support that creativity, on Feb. 21, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, and Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, announced that the company plans to release a non-commercial Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK) from Microsoft Research this spring.

“Microsoft’s investments in natural user interfaces are vital to our long-term vision of creating computers that are intuitive to use and able to do far more for us,” said Mundie. “The fruits of these research investments are manifesting across many of our products, Kinect for Xbox 360 among them.”

(More on TIME.com: Top Five Uses For Your Kinect Besides Gaming)

The revelation comes hot on the heels of hints that Sony might do the same with its PlayStation Move motion controller. (Probably just a coincidence, right?) Despite the company’s image as a corporate monolith, Microsoft’s got a history of encouraging small-team development on the Xbox 360, as their XNA toolset has allowed indie developers to create games for the console for years now. However, it’s unclear if the access the SDK will provide will match what hackers have already done and whether work done via the SDK will have a pipeline out to curious consumers. Microsoft’s statement also mentions commercial version of the Kinect SDK coming out later this year, so there may also be plans afoot to curate the most promising development so that people can see just what’s possible.

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