Kinect 1.5 Launches in May, Adds ’10-Joint Skeletal Tracking’

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Microsoft’s Kinect motion-tracking sensor for Windows and Xbox 360 can today, out of the box, keep track of basic body parts like your arms and legs. It’s not very good at keeping track of rapid motion, and the lag can be application-breaking, but in a rudimentary sense, it gets the job done. Wouldn’t it be great if future versions could juggle more body parts (including joints) simultaneously?

Meet “Kinect 1.5,” the next version of Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows software development kit. Craig Eisler, general manager for the product, says it’ll be available in late May, around the same time the company rolls the SDK out to 19 additional countries, including Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and several more in Europe.

(MORE: Microsoft’s ‘Beamatron’ Uses Kinect to Create Virtual RC Car)

Eisler says one of the “most exciting” additions to the 1.5 version is something called Kinect Studio, “an application that will allow developers to record, playback and debug clips of users engaging with their applications.” I’m assuming he means actual programmatic Kinect interaction sequences, captured and stored on a Windows computer for diagnostic replay and tweaking. I guess I’m surprised that wasn’t in the initial release. How else have developers been fine-tuning their programs’ features and capture parameters?

The other major addition will be what Eisler says the team’s calling “seated” and “10-joint” skeletal tracking, allowing you to keep tabs on a user’s head, neck and arms whether seated or standing (Eisler adds that it’ll work in either default or near mode). Note the term “skeletal tracking” doesn’t refer to your actual skeleton, but a virtual one assigned to your various body parts. Imagine a stick-person version of your body, where your forearm and upper arm are discrete lines and their interplay’s tracked at the elbow joint. I’m not sure how many “sticks” Kinect can track (Eisler doesn’t say, though he promises more details soon), but “10-joint” probably means just what it sounds like: the ability to create up to 10 discretely trackable joints along a single line.

Kinect 1.5 will also add French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish to the speech recognition mix, plus language packs capable of recognizing dialects in all of its officially supported locales.

MORE: Kinect Camera Tech Lets You Try On Clothes without Trying On Clothes