from Kinect's sensor bar. John Mahoney

Without Microsoft’s help, legions of hackers have used the Kinect to bring drawings to life, create mimicking robots, perform surgery, and play music. Over the weekend, Microsoft announced its intention to bring a starter kit for development–basically, a box of tools so developers can legitimately take advantage of the Kinect’s potential–to those same enterprising folks, which can only mean we’re in for ever more evolved uses for our favorite futuristic gaming accessory.

The kit, which Microsoft is calling a “starter kit” for developers, will be released fairly soon (“later this spring”) in a non-commercial form, aimed mostly at research and enthusiast groups. From the development perspective, this is great: Previous Kinect hacks were, well, hacks, with the limitations that sort of thing entails. With a proper software development kit from Microsoft, developers will be able to forgo the hacking process and have full access to the Kinect, including its audio drivers, sensors, and system APIs, which will likely result in more polished and innovative creations–possibly even some that would be freely available to regular Kinect owners like John Q. AwkwardDancer.

Microsoft also notes that a commercial version of the SDK will be available at some point, though there were no further details given on that. What’s interesting about a commercial SDK is that it opens the door for something like a Kinect app store, which would be pretty amazing, especially if and when Microsoft makes the Kinect play nicely with Windows, as the company has hinted in the past.

You can check out our ongoing coverage of Kinect hacks here, and don’t forget to read our guide to setting up the Kinect.