Upcoming Kinect Development Kit Could Change In-Store Shopping

The Xbox Kinect is Microsoft’s big push into motion-controlled gaming. You don’t even need a controller to play. Just move your hands and feet with gestures that the Kinect understands, and — voilà! — you’re kicking footballs, competing in dance challenges, and shooting down bad guys.

But now, one year since its launch, the Kinect has gone way beyond video games. It could change our retail buying experiences, and reinvent the way we shop.

A commercial version of the Kinect software development kit will be made available in early 2012, Microsoft announced on Monday, opening the door for businesses to create new applications for the popular platform.

“With the Kinect for Windows commercial program, Microsoft hopes that visionaries all over the globe will continue to transform the way we do things with new Kinect-enabled tools,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Wired.com in a statement. Microsoft is currently running a pilot program with more than 200 businesses across more than 20 countries, including partners like Toyota, textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and digital advertising agency Razorfish.

If all goes as planned, we could see Kinect-based interactions show up at retailers, banks, automotive dealers and other commercial environments. Razorfish, for example, is looking at building kiosks in which customers’ bodies would be scanned in order to try on digital outfits without needing to take off any clothes — so said Razorfish VP of emerging tech Jonathan Hull in an interview with Kotaku. Other applications could include simpler tasks, such as waving one’s hands to navigate an ATM’s menu screens.

Microsoft previously released a non-commercial version of its Kinect SDK in June, encouraging hackers and open software enthusiasts to create off-beat, innovative applications that take advantage of the platform’s motion-sensing capabilities. From gimmicky motion controls for banking software to NSF grant-backed medical research, the non-commercial SDK spurred creative uses of the platform beyond what Microsoft expected.

Kinect first debuted in November of 2010 to much fanfare. The system eschews the traditional button-and-joystick controller scheme, and instead lets users navigate and play games via hands-free motion capture. The system was an instant hit, setting a Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling consumer device ever in the first few days after its release. In March, Microsoft announced it had sold more than 10 million Kinect devices.

Though the hands-free controller has been a fun novelty for gaming enthusiasts, the Kinect’s utility for hardware-modding enthusiasts has been more compelling. The Xbox peripheral is packed with a bevy of sophisticated motion-capturing instruments, including an infrared light emitter to capture the surfaces of items in a room, and a depth camera that builds a 3D model of all the objects captured by infrared.

The Kinect’s relatively low $150 price tag has been even more attractive for budding DIY-ers. Willow Garage — the Silicon Valley robotics outfit known for its robot control operating system — now offers a $500 open-source robotics kit that incorporates the Kinect. The company’s previous version (also pre-Kinect) cost $280,000.

The initial forays into Kinect modification began with the homebrew modding community, spurring a wave of creative software hacks that ranged from Street Fighter games to the intricacies of “boob physics.” (Yes, really.)

Instead of taking action against the hackers or trying to bar hardware nerds from further Kinect mods, Microsoft encouraged development, promising to eventually release SDKs to new segments of would-be Kinect hackers. “Kinect represents the first incarnation of the next big thing in computing — a world where computing is becoming more natural and intuitive,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Bloomberg Businessweek in a statement.

Kinect’s natural progression is to move into the commercial realm. Much like app developers for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the release of the commercial SDK allows third parties to use Microsoft’s technology in bolstering their own brands and services. Partners, however, would use Microsoft’s hardware to augment their own businesses — this rather than providing content to a centralized store. In return, Microsoft would open itself up to untold numbers of potential new hardware purchasing partners.

David Dennis, group program manager of Microsoft’s Xbox team, told Kotaku that Kinect devices could be sold in bulk numbers — the “tens of thousands” — to partner businesses.

Microsoft hasn’t released any hard details on the commercial SDK’s release date beyond “early next year.” So don’t expect to start waving on digital fashion accessories right away.

Refresh Roundup: week of October 24, 2011

Your smartphone and / or tablet is just begging to get updated. From time to time, these mobile devices are blessed with maintenance refreshes, bug fixes, custom ROMs and anything in between, and so many of them are floating around that it’s easy for a sizable chunk to get lost in the mix. To make sure they don’t escape without notice, we’ve gathered every possible update, hack, and other miscellaneous tomfoolery from the last week and crammed them into one convenient roundup. If you find something available for your device, please give us a shout attips at engadget dawt com and let us know. Enjoy!

Official Android updates

  • Guess which phone’s finally getting Gingerbread: the HTC Thunderbolt. Yes, we’re being serious. [Thanks to everyone who sent this in, and thanks Eddie for the image!]
  • Gingerbread is now rolling out to the Motorola Droid Pro and Droid 2 Global. [PhoneScoop]
  • The HTC EVO Design 4G wasn’t out for very long before it was ready for a maintenance release. It’s called version 1.19.651.0, and no change log was found right away.
  • More HTC stuff: the EVO 3D also offers a small bug fix in the form of a security update under the name of version 2.08.651.3. [AndroidCentral]
  • The LG Revolution on Verizon’s also officially gaining Android 2.3. [Pocketnow]
  • In the UK, HTC Desire S owners are now finding themselves beneficiaries of the Android 2.3.5 firmware update as well as Sense 3.0. [AndroidCentral]
  • How about a couple for the little guys? CSpire, formerly known as Cellular South, is pushing Gingerbread to its Samsung Galaxy S and Motorola Milestone X. [AndroidCentral(1) and (2)]
  • Sony Ericsson announced this week that Android 2.3.4 is rolling out to the 2011 Xperia lineup around the world. Additional enhancements include 16x video zoom, WiFi DLNA, screen capture capability, ability to attach USB peripherals to Sony Ericsson LiveDock and more.

Unofficial Android updates, custom ROMs and misc. hackery

  • The Samsung Stratosphere on Verizon has been successfully rooted. [AndroidCommunity]
  • HTC devices receiving the official Gingerbread kernel source from HTCDev this week: The Evo Shift 4G, the Thunderbolt and Droid Incredible. [AndroidCentral]
  • When it rains, it pours — the Thunderbolt, on top of receiving Gingerbread and its accompanying kernel source, has also found itself on the receiving end of an Ice Cream Sandwich SDK port. As can be expected, it’s still in prealpha stages and has a few bugs to work out. [AndroidCommunity]
  • If you’re a CM7 user, there’s now a file available that will turn your lock screen into one that resembles Ice Cream Sandwich’s style. [Droid-Life]

Other platforms

  • Microsoft’s pushing a firmware upgrade to the LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone which seems to grace the device with WiFi tethering and the ability to locate hidden WiFi networks. [WMPowerUser]
  • It’s not a BlackBerry firmware update, but many people still have a soft spot for BBM and will be interested to know that RIM is putting out version 6.0.1 with a few enhancements. Head to the source to check it out. [MobileTechReview]

Refreshes we covered this week

Refresh Roundup: week of October 24, 2011 originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 30 Oct 2011 11:41:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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White Galaxy Note appears, developers wanted to pen third-party apps for its stylus

We’ve already inspected every inch of Samsung’s big bad phone-tablet hybrid, but a soupçon of extra news has trickled out from the Galaxy Note’s bombastic launch event in London yesterday. Those looking for brighter color scheme to match the striking glow of its HD Super AMOLED display are in luck, as the Galaxy Note looks set to arrive in white; the ethereal ying to its companion’s midnight blue yang. Sammy added that the Galaxy Note’s S-Pen SDK will be available to third-party developers starting December, hopefully bringing more uses for that slide-out stick. And that’s despite the latest Android OS offering native stylus support — the Galaxy Note remains a Gingerbread affair. The current smartphone king was unable to confirm if the UK would be getting the white model on the November 3rd launch day, or ever. Similarly, we’re still waiting on Samsung to put S-Pen to paper on pricing and any possible US launch details.

White Galaxy Note appears, developers wanted to pen third-party apps for its stylus originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Oct 2011 13:21:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Samsung Galaxy Note review

Remember the display on your first mobile phone? If you’ve been chatting on the go for as long as we have, it was probably barely big enough to fit a complete telephone number — let alone a contact name or text message. And your first smartphone? Even displaying scaled-down, WAP versions of web pages was asking a lot. Now, those mobile devices we couldn’t live without have screens that are much, much larger. Sometimes, though, we secretly wish they were even bigger still.

Samsung’s new GT-N7000 Galaxy Note is the handset those dreams are made of — if you happen to share that dream about obnoxiously large smartphones, that is. It’s as thin as a Galaxy S II, lightning fast and its 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display is as gorgeous as it is enormous; the 1280 x 800 pixels you once could only get with a full-size laptop (or in the Galaxy Tab 10.1) can now slide comfortably into your front pocket. Its jumbo display makes it the perfect candidate for a notepad replacement and, with the included S Pen stylus, you’ll have no problem jotting notes on the fly, marking up screenshots or signing documents electronically. But, is that massive display too much of a good thing? You’ll need to jump past the break to find out.

Continue reading Samsung Galaxy Note review

Samsung Galaxy Note review originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Oct 2011 07:15:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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RIM releases BBM SDK for WebWorks, injects some chatting flavor into your apps

This year’s BlackBerry DevCon might have come and gone with nary a mention of BBM’s flagrant promiscuity, but RIM did give us some other BBM news. The Canuck company’s BBM Social Platform SDK is now up for general availability after recently hitting version 1.0. The release extends its venerable messaging protocol to WebWorks developers, allowing their wares to initiate chats and incorporate BBM statuses, avatars and personal messages from the service. Also on the docket is “application-to-application background communication,” which we presume enables a smorgasbord of behind the scenes cross-application chattiness. Finally, Crackberry developers will be able to start file transfers over the protocol, including virally sharing apps between users. Sounds like the ‘Berry of the future is gonna be much more reliant upon Waterloo’s messaging platform, so let’s just hope there aren’t any more outages.

RIM releases BBM SDK for WebWorks, injects some chatting flavor into your apps originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 26 Oct 2011 21:38:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nexus One takes a bite out of Ice Cream Sandwich, chews slowly

The Nexus One, grandaddy of Android’s latest pure-bred wonder, appears to have some fight left in it. Developer drl33tmd has managed to coax the old man into running an early port of Ice Cream Sandwich, although it’s not perfect. The somewhat unstable build is a bit sluggish, and suffers from media playback issues and a distinct lack of WiFi. Check out the demo after the break to see the original Google smartphone struggle up some increasingly steep software stairs.

Continue reading Nexus One takes a bite out of Ice Cream Sandwich, chews slowly

Nexus One takes a bite out of Ice Cream Sandwich, chews slowly originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 24 Oct 2011 07:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Ice Cream Sandwich already unofficially ported, Nexus S 4G gets first dibs

ICS on Nexus S 4G

Well, that was fast. Just two days (barely) after the Android 4.0 SDK was released, a resourceful dev claims to already have the code up and running on a handset that isn’t the Galaxy Nexus. Android Central forum user Breezy is working on delivering a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich to the Nexus S 4G. It’s already pretty clear that particular handset will be getting the upgrade at some point, but we know how impatient you can be. Breezy hasn’t released his ROM just yet, because there’s still some bugs to work out — like the non-functioning WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular data and the wonky touchscreen. So, while you wait for him to get the kinks ironed out, enjoy the additional photo after the break, which sports the same alternate orange theme.

Continue reading Ice Cream Sandwich already unofficially ported, Nexus S 4G gets first dibs

Ice Cream Sandwich already unofficially ported, Nexus S 4G gets first dibs originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 20 Oct 2011 21:39:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Google TV 2.0: app developers get final add-on for Android SDK

If you hadn’t heard, Google TV is (over)due to get a major boost with Honeycomb and access to the Android Market. We’ve seen a few compatible apps leak out thanks to Google’s early efforts to woo developers, but it’s only now that we’re getting the final add-on for the Android SDK. It brings a couple of revisions, like better placement options for the action and navigation bars, but more importantly it delivers the message that two-point-oh is almost two-point-here.

Google TV 2.0: app developers get final add-on for Android SDK originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 12 Oct 2011 06:45:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Insert Coin: Romo, the smartphone robot (video)

In Insert Coin, we look at an exciting new tech project that requires funding before it can hit production. If you’d like to pitch a project, please send us a tip with “Insert Coin” as the subject line.

Romotive co-founder Peter Seid’s tweet read “I build robots powered by smartphone” — that was just the incentive we needed to go check out his and business partner Phu Nguyen’s creation while on a recent trip to Seattle. Romo is a simple and affordable tank-like robot platform that uses basic analog electronics to trigger two motors via any device’s headphone jack. The circuit is tuned to specific frequencies for each motor — playback the right tones, and you control the hardware.

With a smartphone as its brain, all of Romo’s logic and behavior live in the software. Three apps will be available at launch for both iOS and Android. RomoRemote lets you control the robot from another phone over WiFi, complete with remote live view and public address. Romo Kart is a mixed-reality version of Mario Kart, including digital attacks designed to slow down your adversaries. The Drag and Drop Programming Module makes it easy to program Romo directly from your handset with instant results.

During our visit with the folks at Romotive, we got a chance to try the RomoRemote app in person using a couple iPhones — not only is Romo adorable, but it works like a charm. The best part? Peter and Phu plan to make a complete SDK and libraries available to iOS and Android developers. While there are several amounts you can pledge, $78 lets you have Romo and the three aforementioned apps sometime in February 2012. The project is already halfway to its $32,000 goal with 42 days to go.

Take a look at our gallery above, then hit the break for our hands-on video and the all important Kickstarter link.

Continue reading Insert Coin: Romo, the smartphone robot (video)

Insert Coin: Romo, the smartphone robot (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 09 Oct 2011 12:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Qt developers gain NFC support with Nokia’s latest SDK update

Nokia’s development community just got its first taste of near field lovin’ with the first Qt SDK to support NFC. While you’ll be forgiven if you’re not up in arms over the latest revelation, owners of the company’s latest handsets can soon expect a greater number of useful apps that take advantage of this newfangled technology. The developer tools enable the creation of applications for both Symbian and MeeGo, and allows software authors to simulate NFC tags and create events based around them — all within the virtual environment. Programmers looking to dip their toes into the water will find a couple of experimental apps from Espoo’s pride that highlight near field communication, along with the complete source code for each. Sounds like it’s time for some to make a pot of coffee and let the coding madness ensue.

Qt developers gain NFC support with Nokia’s latest SDK update originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 05 Oct 2011 01:11:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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