Kinect for Windows is arriving on Feb. 1st

[update] Kinect for Windows is now available for pre-order from Amazon at $249.99

During Steve Ballmer’s CES keynote this evening (which was a wide ranging chat with Ryan Seacrest) he announced that the Kinect for Windows hardware and software would become available on February 1st. It’s set to unleash what we’ve coined the Kinect Effect even further beyond the 18 million Kinect sensors that have been sold to date.

With Kinect for Windows, commercial applications can be built that take Kinect far beyond the living room. During the keynote, Steve announced that Citi, Boeing, American Express, Unilever, United Health Group, Mattel and Toyota are just some of the companies we’re already working with to bring their Kinect ideas to life in revolutionary new ways.

The Kinect for Windows hardware and software will be available in 12 countries as a suggested US retail price of $249 and will be available in limited quantities to begin with through a variety of resellers and distributors. As Craig Eisler mentioned in an earlier post, Kinect for Windows also brings some new capabilities. The “Near Mode” capability enables a whole new class of “close up” applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360. This has been one of the most requested features from the many developers and companies participating in our Kinect for Windows pilot program. Near Mode enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters.

There will also be hardware that’s been optimized for PC-centric scenarios – which you’re getting an exclusive glimpse of above.

You can read much more about tonight’s announcement over on the Kinect for Windows blog where Craig has a more detailed post up that also talks about the business model amongst other things.

If you’re here at CES, be sure to drop by the What’s Next area of the Microsoft booth where one of our partners, FaceCake is showing a remarkable virtual fitting room application that is built on Kinect for Windows.

Fun times!