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Microsoft is releasing a development kit in March that will help third-party developers create applications that use its Kinect motion controller.

That means Microsoft is opening up the Kinect, originally designed to be used with its Xbox 360 game console, to be used for third-party applications with other devices like PCs. Microsoft will release the SDK (software development kit) for non-commercial use this spring, and a commercial license will come out later.

Up until now, game publishers were able to make titles for Kinect on the Xbox 360. But the new SDK means that amateurs can also join the motion-sensing party and use the Kinect sensor on other machines.

The Kinect is a camera that tracks body movements and sits right under the television. It’s connected to Microsoft’s XBox 360 and used for games and to navigate the console’s media center. While it isn’t 100 percent accurate, the device worked well enough to become one of the best-selling devices of all time. Hackers have already had their way with the Kinect, creating applications ranging from games to slick multi-touch interfaces that feel like they came out of a movie.

Microsoft has already made several moves into other spaces with the Kinect — such as making a movie into Cisco’s turf with a home video conferencing service. The company has said it isn’t going to leave the device as a simple video game controller. And the Kinect has helped bring Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division up to speed with the rest of its operations —  that division alone brought in about $3.7 billion in revenue.

But so far some of the most interesting applications have been underground and unofficial. Now it looks like Microsoft is taking a page out from Google’s handbook by appealing directly to the development community. Android has become popular among developers because it is a more open environment and supports almost any idea that developers want to pitch.

Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer said the device would eventually be compatible with PCs at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, but at the time didn’t give any details about when.


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