Kinect (codenamed Project Natal during development) is a line of motion sensing input devices produced by Microsoft. Initially, the Kinect was developed as a gaming accessory for Xbox 360 and Xbox One video game consoles and Microsoft Windows PCs. Based around a webcam-style add-on peripheral, it enabled users to control and interact with their console/computer without the need for a game controller, through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands. While the gaming line did not gain much traction and eventually discontinued, third-party developers and researches found several after-market uses for Kinect’s advanced low-cost sensor features, leading Microsoft to drive the product line towards more application-neutral uses, including integrating the device with Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure.
The first-generation Kinect for Xbox 360 was introduced in November 2010 in an attempt to broaden the console’s audience beyond its typical gamer base. Microsoft released a beta version of the Kinect software development kit for Windows 7 applications on June 16, 2011, initially supporting the Kinect for Xbox 360 hardware connected to a PC for non-commercial applications. This SDK was meant to allow developers to write Kinect apps in C++/CLI, C#, or Visual Basic .NET.
A similar hardware version Kinect for Windows was released on February 1, 2012. The 1.0 version of the Windows SDK, allowing commercial applications, was released with and required the Kinect for Windows hardware.
Kinect for Xbox One, a new version with significantly expanded hardware capabilities, was released with the Xbox One platform starting in 2013. The corresponding Kinect for Windows v2 hardware was released in 2014, along with a supporting SDK. The 2.0 version of the Windows SDK supported the Kinect for Windows v2 as well as the Kinect for Xbox One hardware.
Microsoft announced the discontinuation of the first Kinect for Windows device as of 2015. The Kinect for Xbox 360 was discontinued along with the console by April 2016. The Kinect for Windows v2 was also discontinued in 2015, and customers were encouraged to use the functionally identical Kinect for Xbox One hardware with an adapter for Windows machines instead. The Kinect for Xbox One was discontinued in October 2017. While Kinect as a primary gaming device has been discontinued, Microsoft continues to develop the platform for developers, with the most recent release being the Azure Kinect announced in February 2019.