At the start of yesterday’s HoloLens 2 announcement, Satya Nadella indicated that Microsoft would be announcing another product, too. It wasn’t exactly a “one more thing” moment, especially since it was announced before HoloLens 2. But it was a surprise.
And that surprise is a new hardware product called Azure Kinect. As its name implies, Azure Connect is a hardware device full of Kinect camera and sensors that connects to various Azure cloud services.
No, it’s not a consumer product: Azure Kinect is aimed at the enterprise and at its developers. As such, I won’t be spending too much time on this here. Other than to note how interesting it is that Microsoft has never given up on this technology despite its implosion on Xbox.
“Azure Kinect is an intelligent edge device that doesn’t just see and hear but understands the people, the environment, the objects and their actions,” Microsoft’s Julia White said while announcing the product. “The level of accuracy you can achieve is unprecedented.”
With that positioning, Microsoft neatly justifies the product’s existence—just as it did later with HoloLens 2—and the years of investments its made in 3D depth sensing capabilities. That Azure Kinect is affordable, at $399, is important too.
But what’s the point? White said that Azure Kinect could be used to create 3D maps of rooms and other spaces, and that companies could use that data with Microsoft’s cloud-hosted AI algorithms to create unique software solutions. One example noted at the announcement came from healthcare, where Azure Kinect is being used to determine when patients are about to fall so that care providers can be warned and prevent accidents.
Azure Kinect is available for preorder now. You can learn more from the Microsoft website.