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Kinect for Windows: Five ways to put it to use

Here's a look at five industries likely to dive head first into Kinect development. Microsoft will be rolling out Kinect for Windows on February 1.

2 min read

Microsoft on Feb. 1 will roll out Kinect for Windows as it tries to leverage Xbox’s best feature and natural user interface for broader use.

In a blog post, Microsoft outlined how it plans on turning Kinect for Xbox 360 to new uses. For me, the money line from Microsoft was:

Kinect for Windows will also support gesture and voice on Windows Embedded-based devices and will enhance how data is captured and accessed within intelligent systems across manufacturing, retail and many more industries. We are building the Kinect for Windows platform in a way that will allow other companies to integrate Kinect into their offerings and we have invested in an approach that allows them to develop in ways that are dependable and scalable.

Steve Ballmer, CES 2012
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer can get a little wound up about Kinect. James Martin/CNET

Microsoft’s grand plan: Charge developers only for the hardware and give away the software developer kit. It’s all about growing the ecosystem around Kinect. In other words, Kinect is going to be a lot more than fun and games. The company has been sprinkling around hints about what industries will work best for Kinect. Here’s a look at five industries likely to dive head first into Kinect development.

  1. Health care. Microsoft clearly sees Kinect as a hospital and health care staple. On ZDNet Health, Denise Amrich noted how Kinect is helping hospitals practice so-called clean techniques. Amrich, an RN, noted that keeping a sterile environment is critical. Kinect is also likely to have surgical applications too. And Kinect is likely to be useful even at the lower end of the healthcare spectrum. The Wii is used in physical therapy. Chances are the Kinect will be too. (Also see: Microsoft foresees roles for Surface 2, Xbox, Kinect in healthcare)
  2. Retail. Kinect also seems like a natural fit for the retail industry. Why? It’s a handy way to try things on virtually, browse kiosks and select products. Microsoft is also likely to pair up Kinect technology with its Surface efforts for retail use.
  3. Manufacturing. The uses for manufacturing and the Kinect are a bit less obvious. Training would be one critical area, but as manufacturing floors become more high-tech you could ultimately control robots with Kinect. If Toyota is testing out uses for the Kinect sensor there must be some mojo somewhere.
  4. Advertising and marketing. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see how Kinect could be paired with PowerPoint to do presentations. In addition, display advertising at subways and consumer accessible areas could be interactive.
  5. Education. Kinect can be a teaching tool. An obvious use case could be physical education and sports training. However, everything from class discussions to demonstrations could be more interactive in a virtual world.

This post originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Five industries for Microsoft's Kinect for Windows."