More from Kinect than just gaming?
A Microsoft Kinect is more than just a simple gaming console.

In an announcement this week, Microsoft said the next version of the Kinect for Windows will be available at the end of May, with a 1.5 version of the software that works with it. The new Kinect for Windows 1.5 will come with a few new features, such as Kinect Studio, which will allow developers to record, playback and debug users' clips.

'10-Joint' or 'Seated' Skeletal System

In addition, there will also be a 10-joint or seated skeletal system, so that apps can track the head, neck and arms of either a standing or a seated Kinect user.What is extra exciting to me about this functionality is that it will work in both default and near more, wrote Kinect for Windows general Manager Craig Eisler in a blog post on March 26.

Four New Languages for Speech Recognition

According to Eisler, there will also be four new languages available for speech recognition: French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese, as well as new language packs that are sensitive to how a language is spoken in different regions, for instance French vs. Canadian French or American English vs. British English.

In early February, the Kinect for Windows 1.0 SDK debuted in 12 countries, aiming to drive the Kinect technology far beyond mere entertainment and use it for serious applications as well, such as healthcare.

19 More Countries in the Next Few Months

Moreover, Eisler announced that the SDK will be launched in 19 more countries within the next few months: Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan will get it in late May; then Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Brazil, Finland, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates will get access in June.

Users can now download the current version of Kinect for Windows, while shipping the hardware will cost $249. A cheaper academic version, priced at $149, is expected later this year.

Back in November, during the Consumer Electronics Show, Steve Ballmer's last keynote included announcing the Kinect for Windows commercial program. According to Ballmer, Microsoft has already started with more than 200 partners, including top players such as Toyota, United Health Group, Mattel, American Express, Telefonica, and more.

(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Surojit Chatterjee)