Microsoft has re-launched its Kinect device as an IOT sensor with a diverse range of uses, from predicting when hospital patients will fall to measuring the dimensions of boxes.

The new US$399 Azure Kinect Developer Kit (DK) will ship by June 27, 2019, and is currently only available for pre-order by customers in the US and China.

The kit’s key selling point is its ability to harness Azure AI cloud services, audio and vision sensors to interpret the nearby environment.

"It enables solutions that don’t just sense but understand the world — people, places, things around it," stated Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure, in a blog post

For example, US software company Ocuvera is using Kinect to look for indicators that hospital patients might be about to fall, then alert hospital staff members.

AVA Retail is using the Kinect DK and Azure to automate the "depalletising" of products in retail shops.

Another Kinect DK user is Chinese company Datamesh, which is exploring how to use it to compare CAD models with physical factory parts.

Microsoft supplies Software Developer Kits and Application Programming Interfaces that add body tracking, speech, vision and other capabilities to Kinect-based IOT solutions.

This enables the Kinect to use optical character recognition to read shopping details on boxes in warehouses, or other algorithms to categorise images. It could also measure the accuracy of human movement.

Microsoft is pitching the kit at the healthcare, manufacturing, retail, logistics industries, among others.

Microsoft's Azure Kinect DK

The kit uses the fourth generation of Kinect technology, which comprises a 1 megapixel depth sensor, 12 megapixel RGB video camera aligned to the depth stream, seven-microphone array for far-field speech and sound capture, an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The units measures 12.6cm x 10.3 cm x 39cm and weighs 440 grams. 

Users can sync multiple Kinects to combine the data streams from their sensors.

The Azure Kinect DK uses the same depth sensor as the new HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset, which Microsoft also launched this week.