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1/10/2011
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Kinect Technology Headed To PCs, TVs

Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer says the hands-free Xbox system is coming to Windows, while ASUS plans a television set-top box.

Microsoft will eventually port its Kinect motion sensing technology for the Xbox to the Windows PC environment, CEO Steve Ballmer said.

Microsoft "will support that in a formal way in the right time," said Ballmer, in an interview with the BBC on the show floor at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Ballmer did not provide a specific time frame for the move.

Microsoft launched Kinect for the Xbox 360 platform in November, selling more than 2.5 million units in its first month on the market. The system features cameras and audio inputs that allows users to interact with games through physical gestures. Unlike the Nintendo Wii, Kinect users don't need to grasp any hardware devices during gameplay.

Kinect could inject some new life into Microsoft's aging Windows franchise. Though it's still by far the dominant operating system for desktops and laptops, Windows is under threat from new form factors, such as smartphones and laptops, that mostly use software from Microsoft rivals like Apple and Google.

The circuitry behind Kinect is also making its way to the PC market through non-Microsoft channels. Prime Sense, an Israeli startup that developed the motion-sensing chips used in Kinect, has licensed the technology to Taiwanese computer maker ASUS.

ASUS has embedded the chips in its new WAVI Xtion media center, which adds PC and Web capabilities to flat-screen televisions. The console lets viewers control on-screen menus and surf the Web through simple hand gestures.

"Our agreement with ASUS for developing WAVI Xtion demonstrates that Natural Interaction technology is already mainstream," said PrimeSense CEO Inon Beracha, in a statement. ASUS plans to make the WAVI Xtion system available to consumers in the second quarter.

PrimeSense has released the programming code for software that controls its chips to its open source OpenNI developer community, in an effort to ensure a rich ecosystem of applications that work with the technology.

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