The internet has been all a flutter recently with stories of resourceful individuals finding new and unusual uses for Microsoft's Kinect peripheral, ranging from autonomous robots to motion tracked shadow puppets.
However, the development community is still at quite an early stage, and the software drivers are still basically just hacked together. Now, though, it's gotten a huge boost from a new organisation called OpenNI. Standing for Open Natural Interaction, the group intends to help develop standards and middleware to promote interoperability for natural interface devices. This will involve helping to develop low-level hardware support - such as drivers - and higher-level visual tracking solutions used for computer vision.
What makes this group really special is that its made up of PrimeSense, Willow Garage and Side-kick, all of which are heavily involved in motion control devices and applications. PrimeSense is, of course, the company that originally developed 'Project Natal' for Microsoft. The drivers and the SDK that it has just released should both be compatible with the peripheral, giving developers a very strong platform from which they can start developing new applications and projects.
The group has already released a video demonstrating both the accuracy and the fidelity of the middleware, which is capable of easily tracking a human body and turning it into a simple avatar.
More details on the group, as well as downloads of all of the binaries, the middleware and the SDK are available from the OpenNI site. Now we just have to wait and see what the Kinect community can come up with now that they have these new tools to play with.