Microsoft reveals an A.I. camera for developers

Key Points
  • Microsoft's Azure Kinect will cost $399 and is available for pre-order today.
  • Microsoft sold 35 million earlier-generation Kinect devices in past years.
Microsoft's Azure Kinect device.

Microsoft announced the introduction of a new smart camera for business at the MWC conference in Barcelona on Sunday.

Microsoft is drawing on both its Kinect and Azure public cloud brands, as it sets off on the next phase in the company's emphasis on artificial intelligence — an area Microsoft identified as a top priority in a recent annual report.

The Microsoft Azure Kinect is "new intelligent edge device that enables developers to create a wide range of AI-powered experiences," Julia White, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Azure marketing, said at the conference.

The system has a 1-megapixel depth camera, a 12-megapixel camera and a seven-microphone array on board. It will work with "a range of compute types," White said.

The device will cost $399, and it's now available for developers to pre-order, White said.

Yet other companies have their sights set on the AI camera market as well. Indeed, in late 2017, Amazon Web Services announced an AI camera targeted at developers. Google, another major cloud provider, doesn't have an AI camera for developers, but it has announced Google Clips, which is aimed at consumers.

Microsoft first released the Kinect sensor hardware for use with Xbox game consoles in 2010, and in 2012 it introduced a version of the device for PCs running Windows. In 2017, Microsoft announced that it had stopped making Kinect systems, saying that it had sold 35 million of them.

Last year the company started talking about Kinect technology in the context of Azure. Now, the technology has a cleaned-up look. White said the new product is the result of a collaboration of Microsoft's Azure cloud group and its devices team, which has previously created Surface Hub business devices, among other things.

Early users of the Microsoft Azure Kinect include AVA Retail, to enable self-checkout and "grab-and-go shopping," as well as Ocuvera. The latter is working with Cleveland Clinic to predict when patients are about to fall, White said.

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