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Kinect gets a makeover for PCs


Kinect is getting a few adjustments for its new partnership with PCs and Windows.

Microsoft has announced that it's giving its best-selling Kinect device a little make-over so that it will play nice with PCs.

Earlier this month, as Microsoft celebrated the one year anniversary of the Kinect game controller for the Xbox 360, the company announced that it was expanding its motion control vision and launching a Kinect for Windows commercial program in 2012.

The project is putting the Kinect for Windows software development kit in the hands of companies so they can use it to "transform their products, their processes, their brands, and their businesses." But to make Kinect work well with PCs, Microsoft is making some adjustments to the device itself.

Craig Eisler, General Manager at Kinect for Windows, explained on the team's blog:

Simple changes include shortening the USB cable to ensure reliability across a broad range of computers and the inclusion of a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals. Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters.

The new "near mode" he just described is meant to enable "a whole new class of 'close up' applications," he said and was one of the most requested features from the 200 or so developers and companies already participating in the pilot program.

David Dennis, group program manager of Microsoft's Xbox team, recently told game blog Kotaku that companies like Toyota, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Razorfish are among those already signed up for the program, which is expected to bring Kinect devices out of the home and into public places like retail stores, car dealerships and banks.

Jonathan Hull, vice president of emerging technology at Razorfish, told Kotaku that his company is looking at creating kiosks that would scan a customer's body and then let them try on digital clothes in real time.

Almost immediately after Microsoft launched Kinect last year, tinkerers of all stripes began tweaking the motion-and-voice-sensing device to make it do all manner of nifty things — help robots swing swords, help guide the blind, and empower small helicopters to fly themselves among other things.  

Microsoft certainly seems keen to keep the creative Kinect ball rolling. Eisler also announced Wednesday that Microsoft has just launched the new Kinect Accelerator incubation project. The project will give 10 tech companies making use of Kinect (on either Windows or Xbox360) $20,000 each to help see their vision realized. Applications are being accepted through January 25.

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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+.  And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.